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Calls for Service - Citizen Demand and Initial Police Response

NCJ Number
E J Scott
Date Published
158 pages
Using data from studies of police referral and patrol practices in 24 police departments in 3 metropolitan areas, this report examines patterns of citizen demand for police services and police telephone responses to those demands.
Data were drawn from more than 26,000 citizen calls to police and operator responses to those calls and from more than 12,000 citizen interviews in Rochester, N.Y., St. Louis, Mo., and Tampa-St. Petersburg, Fla. Requests for information constituted one of the largest segments of demand. While calls about crimes were nearly as frequent as those requesting information, most involved nonviolent or property crimes. Caller attributes, such as sex and race, were generally poor predictors of the types of requests received. Operators took information from or provided information to citizens 25 percent of the time. They referred nearly one in every five callers either to internal police department offices or to external agencies. The more serious the call, the greater the likelihood of operators promising a unit and the less the chance of a call being referred; citizens were promised a unit about half the time. Remaining citizen requests afforded operators ample opportunity to use their discretion. They answered a caller's question, transferred the caller to another office, referred the caller to another agency, or simply recorded the information offered. Caller attributes had little effect on whether a call was referred. The study also indicated the importance of call classification schemes, of information calls as a major source of citizen demand, and of demand patterns as a basis for call prioritization and patrol officer workload. Tables, footnotes, and a bibliography of about 60 references are supplied. A list of types of referral agencies and the citizen survey instrument are appended. For companion documents, see NCJ 77317 and 78341.