Albuquerque leaders address frustrations about 911 call wait times

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It is something we learn as a child. You have an emergency, you call 911.

But KOB 4 has heard from New Mexicans who are frustrated because sometimes those calls seem to take longer than they should.

That was the case for a local woman during that shooting spree earlier this week in the Foothills. One woman said everything was actually unfolding near her home. She picked up the phone, tried 911 and 242-COPS, but no luck.

“I was calling 911, unfortunately, there must be a problem in this city, because I could not get through. They put me on hold. I hung up, called 242-COPS, same thing. So I think that department, there needs to be some money allocated to that department. Because I’m not the only one,” said one woman who did not want to give her name.

The Albuquerque Police Department said without tracking that specific call, there could have been a number of factors at play. Including issues with some cell phone technology – where calls to 911 just keep ringing.

“If someone’s calling in, it feels like hold," said Erika Wilson, manager of the Emergency Communications Center. "If you’re getting the recording, you’re in announcement – you’re in what we refer to as a queue and you’re answered by the next and most immediate available operator."

During major events, they get tons of callers and can only answer as many as they have staffed. APD staff said they’ve actually had their systems looked at by an outside source.

“The auditor, or the consultant, basically said that we’re doing all that we can do, we’re following best practices and the biggest problem for us is staffing,” said APD Deputy Chief JJ Griego.

Right now they have 71 911 operators with four openings. APD has 27 dispatchers with 15 openings.

For the most part, APD said they are extremely efficient. For the week ending with March 6, they said more than 82% of calls were answered within 15 seconds. Nearly 84% of calls were answered within 20 seconds.

“I’m not here to say that we’re perfect and we can’t improve, and we’re in the process of doing so,” Griego said.

It is also important to note that 911 calls and 242-COPS calls all go to the same operators. APD officials said they are hiring.

Operators start at $21.24 per hour, dispatchers start at $22.30. Both positions allow for immediate raises in the first year, with certain certifications.

If you call 911 and you get a constant ringing tone, you may not actually be connecting. So if you don’t get an automated message saying you’ve reached 911, you may want to try again.

It’s also important to call the right number in varying situations. Here’s a breakdown of when to call each number.