There are new questions about Dallas Police response times over calls that went unanswered by police about the safety of a North Dallas resident who turned out to be a murder victim.
The latest Dallas Police figures show Priority 1 response time averages around eight minutes. But response can be much, much longer for lower priority calls, if there is patrol response at all.
Maria Ezquerro lived in the same area where Dallas Police had issued warnings about a serial rapist on the loose.
But when people called 911 out of fear for her safety on November 27, records obtained by NBC 5 show, it took police more than an hour to respond.
The 23-year-old woman lived in an apartment in the 5300 block of Peterson Lane.
A police press release said police responded around 9 p.m. and discovered the deceased woman.
Police logs for the call show it was neighbors and firefighters who first discovered the woman had died and police did not arrive until at least an hour and a half after they were first called.
-The initial 911 call was posted at 9:18 p.m. listed as "OTHER."
-At 9:21 p.m. there is a notation for Health and Welfare check. It was assigned a lower Priority 2.
-At 10:10 p.m. a multi-agency response is noted, adding the fire department.
-at 10:11 p.m. another caller states that he has seen the woman through a window
-At 10:13 p.m. there was notification that a second caller had broken down the door, and found no one else inside except the woman.
-At 10:17 p.m. Fire Department Engine 41 arrived and requested police. The fire department response took only seven minutes.
-At 10:28 p.m. DFR reported a possible homicide.
-At 10:28 p.m. a police supervisor was advised that the police call had expired, with no police response.
-At 10:49 p.m. the call had still NOT been answered by police.
From available information, it is not possible to say whether immediate police response would have made a difference.
However, Paige Flink, an advocate for women’s issues at the Family Place domestic violence shelter, said the lack of response is a concern.
“This is a very, very tragic outcome for this woman,” she said. “When I hear something like this of course I’m concerned that someone wasn’t there in two seconds to try to save this woman’s life.”
The latest figures show the Dallas Police force has just over 3,000 officers, around 700 fewer than in 2011.
In her work, Flink said she is constantly exposed to the lack of police officers throughout the Dallas Police Department, including detectives.
“There’s more cases that every detective has and it makes it harder to have justice served for people that are victims,” she said. “It’s not disrespect or lack of care. It’s we need more police officers.”
Dallas Police Officer Nick Novello said he witnesses issues like this in his patrol shift and hears about more of them from other officers in the Police Department who know that he has gone public with the concerns.
“They’re young and they don’t want to lose their jobs so they ask me to represent them,” he said. “The manpower crisis, and I will call it a crisis, is driving this. They want more with less. We don’t have the officers here.”
Police did eventually respond to Ezquerro’s apartment to conduct a homicide investigation.
On November 29, a 15 year old suspect was arrested for three of the prior Dallas sexual assaults and later charged with Ezquerro’s murder.
Records show police found him living at an apartment very close to Ezquerro, by GPS tracking of a computer that was missing from her home.
The 15-year-old is also linked to two sexual assaults in Bossier City, Louisiana where he was living prior to Dallas.
The suspect was a student at Hillcrest High School during his time in Dallas.
NBC 5 requested comment from Dallas Police on Monday. At 5:15 p.m. Friday, the following statement was issued by e-mail:
“At 9:21pm a call came in for a Health and Welfare Check of an individual but the caller did not know the actual apartment number. This type of call is coded as a priority 2 call for service. When the second call came in, the witness described a woman related to the Health and Welfare Check needing medical attention and Dallas Fire Rescue was dispatched. Upon arrival, DFR discovered the woman was deceased and notified the police of a possible homicide. Officers were then assigned to assist Dallas Fire Rescue on the call.”
There was no answer from police about staffing or what other Priority 1 calls that night might have kept available officers from answering the Peterson Lane calls.
Dallas recently approved an increase in starting pay to $60,000 effective January 1 to help hire more police officers. That salary is still below some surrounding cities.