ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- You spend thousands on your car and if it's broken into or stolen, you expect police to respond. News 4 has learned there are several crimes, including auto theft, where police are not required to dispatch an officer.

News 4 began investigating after receiving multiple complaints from people, including Nate Schwartze, saying police were taking a long time to respond or not responding at all. 

He said he and his wife parked their truck in Soulard on January 31st around 7 p.m. for a date night. When the couple returned to their truck about an hour and a half later, they discovered their vehicle and the car parked next to theirs were broken into. 

Schwartze said he called police at 8:26 p.m. and asked for an officer to respond. 

"She said you know we don’t send officers, somebody will call you back" said Schwartze. “I said are you serious? I think I said are you serious a couple of times because frankly I just could not believe that I was calling about an actual crime and they weren’t going to send officers."

The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department categorizes its calls as part of its 'call reduction initiative.' Through this initiative, dispatchers can take what is considered a low priority crime report over the telephone without ever sending an officer. Those crimes include destruction of property, stealing, auto theft and stolen guns. 

“I honestly thought it was a joke at first," said Schwartze. 

St. Louis city's Director of Public Safety, Jimmie Edwards, said this policy is helping prioritize the police department's resources. 

“It’s not necessarily tied to a lack of or a shortage of policing. That is a fact a problem for us in the city of St. Louis, but it’s certainly it’s not a problem of us responding," said Edwards. 

Edwards told News 4 even if the department was fully staffed, the policy on prioritizing calls would likely not change. 

"No matter how fully staffed we are, we are probably getting more calls than we have police officers," said Edwards. 

If a car break-in was happening at that moment, an officer would be dispatched, according to Edwards. He said he expects officers to respond to all crimes, even low priority, when there is time. 

“It’s easy for our officers to be criticized but I can tell you every single day they put on that uniform or they are under cover, they go out in the city of St. Louis to keep us safe and I think they do a relatively good job," said Edwards. 

News 4 asked what warrants an officer to be dispatched to a scene. Edwards said calls are grouped into three categories: priority one, two, and three. 

Priority one calls include homicides and rapes and typically get a response in around six minutes. Priority two also dispatches an officer. Those are crimes in progress, like a car break-in. Response time is around 12 minutes. Priority three are crimes that have already happened and there is not evidence to collect at the scene, which includes a car break-in. Police do not track response time for these types of calls, according to Edwards. 

According to police, an officer arrived to Soulard about an hour and a half after Schwartze called 911. He said he had to leave to go pick up his daughter and assumed they weren't coming. 

He worries if police don't respond to these crimes, there won't be a deterrent for other criminals. 

"These are the sorts of things that police kind of exist to help with," said Schwartze. "This is why as a taxpayer you think that the police are there."

Copyright 2020 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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