Ten hours before Drew Douglas was allegedly stabbed to death inside her own home, her long-time partner made a concerning call to triple-0.
- Data shows NSW Police are struggling to respond to triple-0 calls
- In 2022/23, the average response time for the lowest priority calls was two hours and seven minutes
- Police said response times can be impacted by various factors not just resources
It was 8:40pm on Tuesday and, while he didn’t threaten to harm anyone, he did raise concerns about his mental state.
The operator put it on the lowest priority list of jobs for NSW Police and officers were planning to visit the home to check on his welfare.
But as the sun came up the next morning, they still hadn’t been there.
At 6:45am they got another call, this time from a frantic family member telling them Ms Douglas had been stabbed.
Despite the efforts of police and paramedics, the mother-of-four died at the scene.
Her partner and the father of her children, Shaun King, has since been charged with her murder.
Police have launched a critical incident investigation to examine why officers didn’t visit the house after the initial call to triple-0.
Response times for lower priority cases blowing out
New data shows police are increasingly struggling to attend all triple-0 calls, especially those deemed to be less urgent.
Figures obtained by ABC News under freedom of information laws show the average police response times to lower priority triple-0 calls in NSW has increased significantly in the past year.
In the 2022/23 financial year, the average response time to priority three calls, which is the lowest priority category, was two hours and seven minutes.
That is up from one hour and 30 minutes the previous year.
For priority two calls, the average response time has also increased slightly, from 10 minutes and 50 seconds in the 2019/20 financial year to 11 minutes and four seconds last year.
Priority one calls are rare and are only used for the most urgent cases, including active shooter emergencies.
NSW Police refuses to attribute the increasing response times to a lack of resources.
A spokesperson said each local area command is “accountable for meeting the individual target response time for their area”.
“Response times can be affected by various factors, including the number of urgent calls, distance of required travel, traffic congestion, weather events, and peak periods,” the statement said.
Critical incident investigations underway
The death of Ms Douglas this week is the latest critical incident investigation by NSW Police this year, examining their response to several high-profile cases.
In June, they pledged to examine the circumstances around the death of Tatiana Dokhotaru, who made a frantic call to triple-0 the night before she was found dead inside her Liverpool apartment.
Police did eventually attend the building to check on her, but not for more than three hours later and when they did, they were unable to find her unit.
Her body was discovered 20 hours after her initial call.
No-one has been charged over her death, but her estranged partner has since been charged with serious domestic violence offences against her.
In January this year, Lindy Lucena was allegedly murdered by her partner, Robert Karl Huber.
On the night she died, there was a triple-0 call reporting “a male was bashing a female” at the exact location where her body was later found.
While the local police station was 600 metres away, officers did not attend the scene until 55 minutes later and when they did arrive, they couldn’t find anything.
But no critical incident investigation has been launched into Ms Lucena’s case, despite pleas from her sister Julie Viney, who has written to Commissioner Karen Webb requesting an explanation.
NSW Police has also refused to answer questions from ABC News about why Ms Lucena’s case did not warrant an internal investigation, claiming it would be “inappropriate” while the case is before the court.
‘You have to change the police mindset’
These three women were all found dead in the past eight months after a delayed response from NSW Police to a Triple 0 call.
There is no way to know if any of their deaths could have been prevented if police had responded earlier, but it raises more questions about whether the system is working and their level of resources is adequate.
NSW Police said they are doing all they can with the resources they have, but those on the frontline have told the ABC more specialised education and training for their officers could help reduce the number of women being killed.
Women’s Legal Service NSW executive officer Helen Campbell said police and other emergency workers need to be better equipped to identify the warning signs and intervene earlier.
“You have to change the police mindset from looking for an incident report to looking for a pattern of behaviour over time,” Ms Campbell said.
“It needs extensive training … but no training is going to work if the attitude is that women make stuff up.
“It comes back to being believed. Having a format where that voice can be heard and, when heard, believed.”
Full Stop Australia chief executive officer Tara Hunter said frontline workers and the public more broadly needed to have a comprehensive understanding of coercive control, which is a common precursor to violence.
“We need education around the range of behaviours that precede something like a domestic and family violence homicide and often they’re not visible behaviours,” Ms Hunter said.
“We as a community need to be well-versed in these issues. This is everyone’s responsibility.”
NSW Police said this week they have attended 139,000 domestic violence-related calls for help last year and charged 30,000 offenders.
Their statement said they invested “significant resources into responding to domestic and family violence”.
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-08-19/womans-death-shines-light-nsw-police-callout-times/102747092 Drew Douglas died in Sydney after a delayed police response. New figures highlight a growing problem