Dallas police are rolling out a new sexual assault reporting protocol in the interest of efficiency.

Officials with the Dallas Police Department announced a new way for victims to report sexual assault during a February 12 meeting of the Dallas City Council Public Safety Committee. While officers usually show up in person to take statements from hospitalized victims before forensic examination, a new alternative will allow victims to speak to police by phone instead.

“The more that this department can show that we’re really invested in ensuring that our survivors get the assistance that they need as quickly as possible, the better outcome we will have in these cases,” said Catrina Shead, assistant chief of police, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The new option will be piloted at Parkland Health before being expanded to other Dallas-area hospitals offering sexual assault nurse examinations (SANE).

The SANE program is nationwide, but training and certification requirements may differ by state or city. In essence, SANE practitioners are experienced registered nurses who have been trained to collect forensic evidence, provide support to victims of sexual violence, and testify in court if required.

Sexual assault examinations cannot be conducted until a police report has been made, however. The new option will help speed up the process and considerably lighten the burden felt by victims. Some victims have been made to wait for hours for a police officer to show up at the hospital, leading to considerable frustration and even walk-outs, according to hospital staff.

“They get very upset,” said Brittany Pahl, director of forensic nursing and community programs at Parkland, according to DMN. “They feel as if they are not important, that maybe we’re not taking them seriously.”

DPD’s average response time for priority-three calls — which include a sexual assault victim wishing to make a report at a hospital — stood at just over 183 minutes as of February 13, according to City data.

The department has struggled to recruit and retain officers for years, leading to a current force of only around 3,000. However, a City report previously recommended around 4,000 officers in order to effectively maintain public safety in a city the size of Dallas.

Moreover, DPD has a budget of just $654 million for police operations this fiscal year after City officials opted to spend far less on police than other high-crime jurisdictions, such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

DPD had clocked 60 reports of sex crimes as of February 12, according to the City’s crime analytics dashboard. The victims were overwhelmingly black and Hispanic women and girls.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, DPD has been grappling with a longstanding backlog of sexual assault cases due to thousands of sexual assault kits going untested. Federal funding through the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Sex Assault Kit Initiative has helped speed up the processing of these kits since 2015, however, there is still work to be done.