Schmoke relates complaints about 911 Critics say city police slow to answer calls

May 22, 1998|By Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields | Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

An elderly couple recently returned to their Baltimore home to discover that it had been broken into and that the burglar was inside. They called 911 and told the operator it was an emergency.

But no one came, the couple said. They left the house and called from a pay phone. Again, no one. They tried once more, this time using the 311 nonemergency number before walking home to find a city police officer waiting out front.

This was one of several complaints Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he has received about the city police response to 911 calls, prompting him to meet with Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

Schmoke said he had no conclusive evidence to indicate problems with the city's 911 system, but he expressed concern after receiving several such complaints from city residents.

"It's just that when I start getting more than one letter every five or six weeks, it just raises my antennae on it," the mayor said yesterday. "It's something I've heard in the recent community forums as well as letters I'm receiving."

The mayor's office refused to release copies of the letters, and officials were unable to say yesterday whether an arrest was made in the incident Schmoke mentioned.

But police officials said they were aware of the complaints and were investigating to determine if they were caused by a glitch in the computerized system or by a dispatcher error or if an officer failed to respond promptly.

"The department is very concerned when an individual dials 911 for help and doesn't receive an immediate response," said Robert W. Weinhold Jr., a police spokesman.

Schmoke said that the senior citizens who complained about the burglary called their police district.

But officers at the district said yesterday they found no record of the 911 calls, which are supposed to be taped. They did find evidence of the 311 calls.

"That was just one of a couple of letters like that," Schmoke said. "I want to make sure we're on top of the situation."

Pub Date: 5/22/98

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