Starting January 1, 2018, Columbia Police officers will no longer respond to calls where a person has locked themselves out of a residence or a vehicle, unless emergency circumstances exist.
As a collaborative effort with Boone County Joint Communications, these calls, referred to as lockouts, will now be handled through an on-call locksmith. In 2017, over 250 vehicle and residential lockouts were dispatched to Columbia Police officers. In most cases this resulted in the officer contacting a locksmith for the citizen. Now, when a dispatcher receives a lockout call, they will provide the caller with the phone number for the on-call locksmith. An officer would only be dispatched if emergency circumstances exist, such as a child being locked inside.
"We are trying to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our officers by freeing them up from some of these calls," says Assistant Chief Jeremiah Hunter, Commander of the Patrol Bureau.
Oftentimes the department reaches what is referred to as "status zero," meaning there are more calls for service than there are officers available to respond, resulting in longer wait times for citizens. A lockout, unless it's an emergency situation, is often a low priority call, so citizens may wait minutes or hours depending on the call volume.
"This will be more efficient for citizens as well," says Hunter. "Their only wait time will be for a locksmith, as opposed to an officer and then a locksmith."
Similar practices have been in place for other calls in efforts of freeing up officers, to include officers not responding to vehicle collisions unless there are injuries and/or the vehicle needs to be towed, as well as the online reporting form for crimes with little to no suspect information.