By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — One year ago, a WCCO investigation found some Minneapolis residents waiting more than three minutes for their 911 calls to be answered.

Dispatchers exposed what they called dangerous staffing levels leading to those long wait times.

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Updates at Minneapolis 911 have since been made. So WCCO wanted to know if the workers’ call for change has really been answered.

After spending 31 years serving Minneapolis as a 911 dispatcher, Robin Jones is near retirement. She’s thankful to leave under what she calls better working conditions.

“Yes, I do think the city is safer than one year ago. It is safer,” Jones said.

She blew the whistle last year when people calling for help in Minneapolis waited for minutes at a time.

A WCCO investigation reviewed three recent months of weekly reports. We found 34 calls took at least a minute to answer. In December, the longest caller waited 66 seconds. In January, 95 seconds and last month, 115 seconds — almost two minutes.

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Still, fewer callers are waiting than last year when in just one four-hour period, two dozen calls took a minute or more.

Dispatchers blamed long waits on a cross-training effort. All employees must be trained to work operator and dispatch positions by 2017, and the city says average wait times have fallen.

The 911 director declined to be interviewed, but a city spokesperson told us they expect answer times to go down even more once hiring and cross training is complete.

Five dispatchers have been hired in the last year and five more should be filled by the end of this year.

The city says average wait times have fallen, from eight seconds last winter to five and a half now.

“I’m glad they realized that that’s what was needed and have staffed it appropriately,” Jones said.

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Mayor Betsy Hodges now receives weekly reports on the 911 wait times. Councilman Blong Yang chairs the public safety committee. He says the city has made significant improvements, and that our stories were a wake-up call to be paying closer attention.

Liz Collin