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911 is a joke

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  • 911 is a joke

    Public Enemy was accurate with their song "911 is a Joke" !
    Twice this summer I have called them and wasted my time -

    The first time I saw a man hit by a car and fell down on the ground at 5th Ave & 13th Street. When I called 911 of course I had so much adrenalin pumping through me and every time the operator asked me where it was, I would tell her 5th Ave, 13th Street, in the Village, and then she would waste time and ask me if it was east or west... Everybody knows that 5th Ave is smack in the middle... Then the driver was trying to pull away and I was trying to tell the operator the plate number and she didn't care, she actaully yelled at me, so I hung up.

    This past Friday night (on my walk home from the closed piers) I stopped in the deli on 8th Ave between 19th and 20th.
    There were a bunch of suburban dumb obnoxious hooligans in there yelling at the really nice Asian guy behind the counter all these obscene names and telling him they were gonna f*in knock his head off because he was trying to rip them off... They were drunk and really being loud and pathetic. They were really threatening big bullies, and it was getting scary, plus I could tell the deli guy was becoming increasingly afraid so I called 911.
    The operator comes on droning "911, ... this is operator blah blah blah...what's your locale and emergency?" That alone wastes 5 crucial seconds where someone's life could be in immediate jeopardy. As soon as I heard a voice, I just went off, and told them what was happening at (as I quote myself) - "the deli on the west side of 8th ave, between 19th and
    20th streets in Chelsea". They respond - "That's in Manhattan?", "The west side or east side sir?"... The operator could surely here the deli patrons screaming at the clerk and I was trying to keep my voice down so it wasn't obvious I was calling for help.
    The operator got rude with me saying she can't hear and some other nonsense, and so I hung up to try for another more efficient operator... I got the same lady and she asks me the same questions, this time with more attitude, I try to answer her and the guys are screaming over me, the operator is yelling at me... So I yelled back at her - "Before becoming a 911 operator, you should probably look at a map and learn the city and not waste time asking stupid questions... everybody knows 8th Avenue in Chelsea is west!" and I hung up really aggitated again.
    Then I thought to run around the corner to the local precinct but just then the row let up and they walked out on their own pretending to be so super tough.
    To calm the deli guy down I asked if he was ok, and told him I called the police just in case. A guy in line asked me why and he sighed. Really, I don't know why.. it was just a waste of time as usual.

  • #2
    Re: 911 is a joke

    Those are infuriating stories. Isn't there someone you can relate that to who might want to report that somewhere? What about someone on the City Council?


    • #3
      Re: 911 is a joke

      Oh sure Vidis, you could of course report it to the City Council. That is certainly an option. However, mulling over some of the past news stories (past year and before), this problem with 911, response time with ambulances, etc., etc. is not uncommon here in NYC. Much to the shigrin of both NYC residents and many of the city council members I'm sure.

      I recall hearing time and time again, about how 911 operators put you on hold, let the phone ring incessantly before even picking up and, have even (as your stories have indicated), waste time asking stupid questions, with an ATTITUDE no less. This is TRULY frustrating and a damn shame!

      The question becomes, with all of the evidence to the above, and all the complaining and promises to improve "the system," when? Really...when? And even more pathetic is, what is it going to take to implement these radical changes to this so-called "system" of consistent incompetencies and poor training of people (not all but some), who really only took a job with the City for the benefits they offer and obviously not because they care?

      Perhaps if it were a case of "one of their own," things MIGHT change a little huh?

      Good for you Vidis however, for "seeing something and saying something!" Good for you! You are truly an example of a good citizen, and I applaud you.



      • #4
        Re: 911 is a joke

        Wow, what a crazy and infuriating story Vidis! Unbelievable. You've gotten my blood boiling now!

        The only thing I can tell you - and apparently this wasn't your experience here, but one time I called 911 to report a girl getting mugged. They started asking the same stupid questions. I told them W 30th St between 8th & 9th. And she said "is that in Manhattan"!!! I too was furious with that crazy waste of time. I was calling form my landline! So they had my caller ID and address. I don't know, is ther ea W 30th St between 8th & 9th in any other borough?

        Anyway, then she starts asking me a series of crazy questions, like what is the guy wearing. WHAT DOES IT MATTER - HE'S THE ONLY GUY MUGGING A GIRL!! Finally, to my great surprise 3 cop cars showed up right then and there, before I could even finish answering the question about his clothes. So she had already sent them out while she was keeping me on the phone asking stupid questions.

        To us it seems they're not doing anything until they finish asking their questions, but I guess they have full capabilities to send everything you're telling them to whoever it needs to be sent to while they're talking to you and while they sound like they're not yet doing anything.

        My cop friend says that anytime you tell them you see a weapon, the cops will be there in like 30 seconds! That of course is not to say you should lie and say there's a weapon when there's not. But if you feel there is a physically threatening situation and something could be used as a weapon, like the bottles they're holding, I'm sure if you told them that they'd find that much more urgent.

        I think in your case, I might have said there's a robbery going on, because it I think "robbery" would have put it on the level of urgency that it should have been on - without falsely making it even more urgent by suggesting there was a weapon.


        • #5
          Re: 911 is a joke

          It's too bad because you don't wanna cry wolf, but i guess next time I will have to mention i think i see a weapon.

          As far as seeing something and saying something... i won't be doing that anymore if it has to do with terrorism...

          This is from summer 2005 -
          After returning home to New York from studying abroad two years, I find
          we are bombarded with incessant messages telling the public "If you
          see something, say something". It's nice if it works, but it backfired on
          me the other night, and I wound up in handcuffs for the first time in
          my thirty years of life - and have never been in trouble with the law
          before ever!
          As I was rushing to catch a train to Long Island at Penn Station, I
          noticed that there was a suspicious package (a suitcase left unattended)
          near an abandoned area by the A, C, E subway lines at 34th Street.
          Nobody was in the token booth, so I ran up a level to alert the first
          authorities I could find. About five officers were trying to wake up a
          well-dressed couple who were obviously harmless, unless they were sleeping
          suicide bombers.
          When I tried to get the cops' attention, they told me to go away and
          tell the subway police because they had nothing to do with the subways,
          just Penn Station. When I tried to explain that there was nobody down
          there, they told me to leave, and I expressed disbelief that they were so
          preoccupied with the sleeping couple, that they would ignore somebody
          telling them about something potentially very dangerous. They told me
          not to challenge them, and I said ok, and I read the primary officer's
          name off his badge. He said you want my name, I want yours.
          Without hesitation, I produced my driver's ID with my right hand, and
          all of a sudden my left hand was pulled behind my back and cuffed, then
          cuffed together with my right hand. There was absolutely no reason to
          put me this way, and all of a sudden they forgot all about the sleeping
          couple and dragged me away to the cell. It was useless to struggle, so
          I just went peacefully, and they cuffed me to a bench.
          They asked me if I had been in custody before, and some other
          questions, and I knew better to answer as polite as possible with "yes sir, no
          sir". One officer asked me why I was on my way out to Long Island if my
          driver's license says my New York City address, and I told them because
          I was staying with my parents in Nassau County. Another officer asked
          me what I did, and I told him I plan to do journalism. He responded,
          "oh good, this can be your first story!'
          About an hour later, I was released but given a summons for disorderly
          contact and have to go to court in September. They escorted me halfway
          out of the station and told me to leave. When I told them I had to take
          the train, they told me to leave even more stern.
          Even though I flashed a hundred dollar bill to several taxi drivers,
          nobody would take me out to Long Island. My poor father had to drive into
          the city in the middle of the night to get me.
          After a few days of trying to sort out what really happened and why,
          the only conclusion I can come up with is blatant abuse of power from the
          The public are constantly encouraged to tell police if anything odd is
          happening, and they should have been trained to deal with this
          situation better. When I gave them my ID, and showed them I was harmless and
          not a threat, and did not resist questioning, I should have been
          released immediately. Instead, I have been cuffed, summonsed, humiliated and
          traumatized for trying to do my part as a good citizen.
          Next time I see something that I feel is misplaced, I will just keep
          walking and certainly keep my mouth closed - for fear of being detained


          • #6
            Re: 911 is a joke

            I agree fully with a lot of what's been said here, especially about some poor attitudes and "phone manners." Keep in mind though that those operators spend 40 hours a week fielding all kinds of calls from all kinds of people; it can't be any easy job.

            "...she starts asking me a series of crazy questions, like what is the guy wearing. WHAT DOES IT MATTER... " If the mugger had left the scene before the police arrived, they would at least have an idea of who they were looking for.

            " don't wanna cry wolf, but i guess next time I will have to mention i think i see a weapon." You should really think long and hard before you do this. Saying that a weapon is involved will get the adrenalin rush going and can easily escalate an important situation into something deadly. If the responding police think a weapon is involved, they'll be coming in with more cars and potentially more force than the circumstances actually warrant and someone can easily be hurt, whether at the scene or in an auto accident while they're responding. Additionally, it will tie up resources which then aren't available for a real problem somewhere else. I wouldn't want to be responsible for that.

            Perhaps the absolute worst thing any of can do is to get fed up with the situation and stop calling when appropriate, for example suspicious packages or the gunshots on weekend nights when the "out-of-neighborhood visitors" are leaving the area west of 10th Avenue. CC made a really good point about the 911 system being in need of updating; that's something that we have to pester the politicians about and let them know that we, the voters, won't accept it and want something done - NOW. Many small jurisdictions across the country have newer and better 911 systems than we do.


            • #7
              Re: 911 is a joke

              SNAP, I agree with you. A friend of mine worked in one of the city call centers for a while, and she told me that there were actually "regulars"--people who called them so often that after a while the operators knew their voices, gave them names and knew what kinds of loony things they'd have to say.

              All the questions might seem stupid, but the operators have to ask them. From what I was told, there's actually a strict sequence of questions they have to follow, and even though some of them are ridiculous, they have to ask them or they get in trouble for not doing their jobs.

              As soon as you say what type of emergency you have, and if it's east or west, they're immediately sending information to the dispatcher. Questions like "what is he wearing" really do help, for the reasons SNAP mentioned, and they're not holding up help--they're just getting more information.

              I've been told that if you hear something like a fight or a domestic dispute, or someone threatening someone else, it's a good idea to hold up the phone and let the operator hear it as clearly as possible. 911 tapes are admissible in court AFAIK and can be very powerful evidence.

              Having said that, YES, it's absolutely true that there are a lot of rude and inefficient 911 operators out there, and that the system is in desperate need of an overhaul. I've had very frustrating experiences with them myself.


              • #8
                Re: 911 is a joke

                SNAP, yes you expanded on and clarified my statements perfectly! Thank you. I do agree with what you've said and yes - I realize it's important to tell them what the perps are wearing. But in the heat of the moment it just seems so ridiculous when they ask, so I was relating with Vidis on that one.

                On the weapons - yes, thank you for clarifying there. I tried to be careful not to suggest ever lying about that kind of thing. And SNAP you gave great reasons why no one should lie about. However, sometimes there might be doubt as to whether or not there's a weapon. For instance, in the example I gave above, if some kids are holding glass bottles and drinking out of them... probably not a weapon. But if they're getting threatening to the clerk and they're holding glass bottles, at what point could they turn those bottles into weapons?

                Everyone should of course use their discretion in these situations and you should never lie. But if I saw kids who I determined were getting very threatening and I thought the situation might escalate and they were holding bottles, when the operator asks "are there any weapons" I would not say "no". I would tell the truth though, but I would make it sound more like a yes than a no. I would say "they're holding bottles and I'm afraid they might attack the clerk with them." That's not a lie, and it does give a good feel to the operator of what's going on yet at the same time it doesn't flatly rule out the possibility of weapons. And they would probably show up sooner... which is what you'd want in a dangerous situation like the one Vidis witnessed.