Columbia Business School
Revised December 18, 2000
The New York City Police Department Patrol System
The City of New York is divided into 73 precincts. These precincts are the basic managerial units for the operation of the familiar police patrol cars (called radio mobile patrols or RMPs) we see on the City streets. For staffing purposes the Police Department divides the day into three eight-hour tours of duty: 12 midnight to 8AM, 8AM to 4PM, and 4PM to 12 midnight. A particular police precinct such as the 26th, in which Columbia University stands, may have 6 patrol cars in the field during the typical 8-to-4 tour. In New York about 1200 cartours are fielded on an average day -- about 200 on the 12 to 8 tour, about 400 on the 8 to 4 tour, and about 600 on the 4 to 12 tour. Most cars are staffed with two police officers. The primary tasks of the patrol cars are responding to emergencies that are phoned in by citizens via the 911 emergency telephone system and patrolling the streets. Annually, there are about 10 million calls received by the 911 system. Incidence of emergency calls is generally very unpredictable, but incidents are most prevalent in the early evening hours. Emergency incidents vary in severity and importance -- ranging from reports of crimes in progress to complaints about loud neighbors. Roughly 10% of calls are potentially serious and get high priority from the police. When not responding to 911 calls, patrol cars patrol in their assigned neighborhoods, referred to as sectors. Each precinct typically has 4 to 8 sectors. "Back-office" operations for the 911 system are located in Police Headquarters in downtown Manhattan at One Police Plaza. Incoming 911 calls are handled by banks of telephone operators, grouped by borough. The operators screen the calls to determine whether or not they are legitimate police matters, and key in to the central computer system information about the time, location, and nature of the incident. If the incident was...
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