It’s a meme* Since the police will not arrive at your home to protect you from intruders, you must arm yourself with guns. Efforts by commie libruls to restrict gun ownership are tantamount to going from farm to farm and shooting all the babies in the head because gun control takes away the ability of hard working farm families to protect themselves from daily threats of armed intruders, who have probably gone out to the country side from their rat infested urban lairs to prey on the innocent. Central to this meme is the idea that the police a) won’t arrive at your home for a very long time after you’ve called them and b) the police are not even required to go to your home if you call them. (I’ll deal with the first, but not second of these here.) The outcome of the ‘logic’ that uses this meme is that we must heavily arm ourselves pretty much no matter where we live. The meme is fed by occasional reports of very long response times by police, such as this one recently discussed here.
I am not going to make a complex argument or present piles of data. Rather, I’m just going to show you what a couple of minutes of google searching got me. I asked the question, “how long are response times” by police in emergency situations. The answer is: In urban areas with well funded police forces and an upper SES population, under five minutes. In more rural areas that are still affluent between five and 15 minutes. In urban areas that are less affluent, about 15 minutes but as low as 8 minutes, and in rural areas that are not high SES, I’m not sure for police response times but for ambulance response times, just under 20 minutes. These numbers are sometimes averages, sometimes quartiles or some other statistic, representing 80 or 90% of the calls.
In the case discussed earlier (see link above as well as this story) the police response was 21 minutes, and the site of the emergency (a knife-wielding intruder who was eventually killed by the woman who lived in the home being invaded) was less than 10 miles from the town police department, and about 20 miles or so from the Oklahoma City Police. I assume that State Trooper and Sheriff patrols were less than 20, probably less than 10 minutes away. The reason for a 20 minute plus response time in this case is unclear, and it is not addressed in any of the reporting that I’ve seen. (I’m asking around among the reporters who covered this to see if it is a question that has been brought up.)
Response times need to be improved, but there is no reason to assume that most people live in unprotected areas where the police will always arrive far too late to do any good. There are reports here and there of response times getting longer, but if you hear that more often than the alternatives of response times not changing or improving, please consider that this may be a reporting bias. In Minneapolis, high priority calls were responded to on average (I’m not sure how the average is calculated) in 8 minutes in 2003 and 8 minutes in 2012. During the interim, response times went up, then down again.
Now, here’s an interesting fact for you, which I’m pretty sure is true. As I look through response time data, every time I can see a comparison between fire and police, the fire departments beat the pants off the cops. In the same period I just mentioned for Minneapolis, between 80 and 90 percent of the time the fire department arrived at their calls in less than 5 minutes. The fire department is quicker than the police. That means the police can be quicker than they are, right?
*ADDED: I’ve already been told that I’ve created a straw man by noting that the “response time is long, arm yourselves” meme. I didn’t bother documenting that this meme exists because it is so obvious and ubiquitous, but since I’m being called out on it, here is the result of a a couple of minutes of googling and linking:
GAMBLING WITH YOUR LIFE: Is 911 an acceptable option?
Do police stop crime?
The Second Amendment in Action
For those who already have guns but want more straw men in their lives.
GUNS LOWER CRIME AND SAVE LIVES
And so on and so forth.
Minneapolis Police Response Time
Minneapolis Fire Response Time
Albermale County, Virginia (Affluent-ish suburb/rural) 10-14 minutes
Milwaukee: Urban, underfunded, times have been getting longer, ranging from 13 minutes to 30 minute, average about 18 minutes.
Some other data from around the country.
Orange County, California (the 1% live here): response times near 3 1/2 minutes up to 7 1/2 minutes.