Rochester woman hit, menaced by stolen Kia, waits six hours for police

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – For months, News10NBC has been reporting on the major staffing shortages plaguing law enforcement. Representatives of the Rochester Police Department (RPD) say they are down 80 officers, which is leaving the department stretched thin.

This leads to mandatory overtime, and longer response times. While non-emergencies may be able to wait for hours, News10NBC spoke to a woman on Tuesday, who was hit and menaced by the driver of a stolen Kia. She had to wait six hours for police to arrive.

Tuesday afternoon, the woman, who News10NBC is not identifying, says she was backing out of her driveway when she pulled in between two stolen Kias on a joyride. She realized what happened when she hit a red light.

“I heard this screeching and screaming, and then all of the sudden a car came flying up behind me,” she said. “The car went around and then started slamming into me.”

The car hit her four times before driving off once the light turned green. Inside, she said she saw teenagers wearing face coverings. She said she was able to get their license plates and called RPD right away, but the police didn’t come. Four hours later, she saw the joyriders out again on her street. She made another call to 911. The dispatcher told her to head to the back of her home, draw the blinds, and lock the doors.

“Effectively a shelter-in-place,” she said. “When they didn’t come, I was just so scared, and terrified.”

Two hours after that, the police arrived.

“They were wonderful,” she said. “[But] fundamentally, you’ve always been able to call 911 and get a response, and you can’t get that now.”

According to RPD Lieutenant Greg Bello, wait times have been an ongoing issue, mostly due to staffing shortages that started years ago.

“It’s frustrating for us as well to see the calls are holding, and that there’s not enough officers to handle those calls,” he said. “We’re trying to build out of that, we’re trying to hire, and we’re working our way through it.”

Bello said RPD takes a triaging approach: Calls involving an ongoing or violent crime, such as a homicide, shooting, or robbery-in-action, are bumped to the top of the list. This leaves people like Tuesday’s victim waiting for hours.

“I don’t know if they had a gun or not, they could have,” the victim said.

Paul Miner and Judy Bennett have lived in the neighborhood for 11 years. While they’ve had a bike or two go missing, they say that they generally feel safe.

“Disbelief. Disbelief,” Miner said after hearing of the incident. “In something like this, where there’s visible property damage specifically targeting someone, and they can’t respond.”

After her experience calling 911, the Rochester woman says that she is considering moving her family to the suburbs, where she believes police response time will be faster.

Meanwhile, Rochester police say that are continuing to work on bolstering recruitment, hoping to get 1,000 applicants to take the next exam in September. Additionally, the city has launched a new app for people to report non-emergency concerns, to help free up 911 and 311 for those who may need critical attention.