WASHINGTON - It took D.C. police an hour to respond to a burglary in progress at a Northeast D.C. home that was struck for the second time in a week.
"This is kind of scary for us,” said one of the victims who lives at the home. “We found a knife on [my roommate’s] bed."
A neighbor called 911 twice and watched as the suspect loaded a television and other stolen items into one of the victim's car.
"No one had responded in 20 minutes and then [the neighbor] saw the perpetrator leaving,” said the victim. “Still, no police had arrived. He chased them down.”
Police confirmed it took officers an hour to respond after dispatch failed to prioritize the calls as a burglary in progress. The neighbor first called 911 at 1:44 p.m. and called again at 2:18 p.m. The first responding officer showed up on a bicycle at 2:47 p.m.
“Especially with the knife that we discovered and what the perpetrator intended to do with that, [it] terrifies me,” said the victim. “This could have ended with one of us bleeding to death on the floor for an hour and a half and that is scary.”
But it is what the victims say police told them when they asked for more patrols in their neighborhood that left them questioning police manpower.
One of the victims said they told police, "We are kind of freaked out here. Can you do a few drive-bys just to keep an eye on the house? He was like, ‘We will pass it on, but we're shortstaffed.'"
FOX 5 asked Interim D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham about the police staffing in the city.
“We are in the neighborhood of a little over 4,700 officers on the department,” he said. “We have actually hired additional civilians to take places of officers that used to have those positions.”
But Newsham was later corrected and was told they only had 3,700 officers on the force.
During former Police Chief Cathy Lanier's tenure, she said staffing fewer than 3,800 officers would be trouble for the department. The number of officers on the force are significantly different depending on who you ask.
If you ask the D.C. Police Union, which has watched the numbers closely, there are not even 3,700 officers on the force.
Since January 2014 when the previous contract failed to provide raises, the police union said more than 1,000 men and women have left the force bringing the current total to less than 3,500 officers.
A photo taken at a recent roll call at the department’s Sixth District – one of the areas with most crime in the city – showed a nearly empty room with very few officers.
The city’s Office of Unified Communications is reviewing the emergency calls made about this burglary to find out why they were initially classified a non-priority report instead of a burglary in progress.