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Clark County sheriff makes misleading claim in campaign ads

Updated June 3, 2018 - 9:58 pm

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s re-election campaign materials include a misleading claim about wait times for 311 calls.

The sheriff’s campaign mailers and commercials claim the addition of civilian staff in the past three years has reduced wait times for these nonemergency calls “from hours to seconds.” In reality, average wait times have decreased by about 2½ minutes since he took office in January 2015.

Lombardo said he received his data from police dispatch in September, but he would not comment further on how the information has been used in his campaign.

“Obviously I don’t have access to his data, but from a campaign tactic point of view, I think that you should make sure your data is accurate and supportable,” said retired North Las Vegas police Lt. Tim Bedwell, who is running against Lombardo.

Campaign contributions suggest that Lombardo is facing no serious competition in the race, although he has four challengers. He raised more than $522,000 in the reporting period that began Jan. 1 and ended May 22, followed by Bedwell, who raised about $48,000.

The other three candidates reported no contributions. They are Clark County school police Detective Matt Caldwell, former Metropolitan Police Department Detective Gordon Martines and Gregory Heiny.

(Wes Rand/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Lombardo is seeking a second term as sheriff.

What the numbers say

The Metropolitan Police Department provides two averages in its wait-time statistics: the average wait time in general, and the average of the longest wait times of each day.

Lombardo’s claim compares the average maximum wait time for August 2016 with the much lower average wait time of 2017. According to data provided by his campaign, the average longest 311 wait time in August 2016 was just over two hours. In a mailer, his campaign states that the new wait time is just 31 seconds.

“If, in fact, what he is presenting is the worst-case scenario against the current average, that is disingenuous,” Bedwell said.

The nonemergency line has traditionally been a troubled system for the department, but call centers have added more staff, and wait times for 311 calls have decreased since Lombardo took office.

In the five years leading up to Lombardo taking office, the highest average wait time was just over a minute.

The average wait time for a nonemergency call in 2015 was just over three minutes, but that time dropped to 50 seconds in 2016 and was reduced to 31 seconds in 2017.

Crime ‘solvability’

During the campaign, Lombardo also has taken responsibility for boosting “crime solvability” by 300 percent.

Lombardo said Thursday that the statistic refers to all crimes in which a suspect has at least been identified, and does not necessarily mean police made an arrest or submitted a case for prosecution.

Jim Ferrence, the sheriff’s campaign manager, said the “solvability” rate was 7 percent at the time Lombardo moved detectives from police headquarters to the substations throughout the valley. The department began automating the tracking of this statistic after the detectives were reassigned and the department’s computer system was upgraded, Lombardo said.

As of Wednesday, that “solvability” rate was slightly more than 28 percent.

“I would probably hold that number up against any police department in the nation,” Lombardo said.

The primary for the nonpartisan sheriff’s race is June 12.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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