Home Commentary Open forum 'MAKE AN APPOINTMENT BEFORE CALLING 911'



Dear Source,
"Crime is not just a matter for the police," writes outgoing Police commissioner Franz Christian. "It is a community problem." Pleas from the Police Department for community assistance regularly show up in the media.
Despite some rather bad personal experiences with the local police over the years, I've always defended them to the naysayers because of the ongoing lack of proper supplies at their disposal and often-outdated equipment, which I feel are contributory factors in their struggle to protect the community. It's sometimes hard to maintain that defense.
One night last week, my business was closed but I was inside doing some chores when I happened to glance out of the window and saw that a car had apparently broken down on the main road just a short distance away. The emergency flashers were on and I didn't think much about it until I looked out a few minutes later and saw a man walking away from the side of the building and back across my parking lot to the disabled car. For some instinctive reason, I felt that something wasn't right.
About fifteen minutes later I heard an odd noise from outside and saw through the window that the same man was back and was busily removing items from the trunk of my parked car. I immediately went to another window right above him and yelled at him. He took off across the lot and went back to his disabled vehicle. It was 7:40 p.m. and I immediately called 911, told the dispatcher what had happened, explained that the man was right by his car, that he obviously couldn't go anywhere, and could someone please come over and nab him for tampering with my vehicle. I was assured that someone would be right there. I should add that my business is less than ten minutes away from Zone C precinct.
I wasn't brave/stupid enough to go outside by myself but called a neighbor who kindly walked over, surreptitiously got the man's license plate number and called to give it to me. I thereafter called 911 at 7:55 p.m. and again at 8:15 p.m., in the latter call advising that the man had been busy on his cell phone and that someone had finally showed up to help and they were in the process of changing the tire. I was assured again that somebody would be "right there."
At 8:35 p.m., almost one hour after my first call, I again called 911 to tell them to forget it because the man had just successfully completed the repair and had driven away. The Dispatcher apologized and said that "Officer *** is right now in Anna's Retreat and can be right there."
"There's really no point," I said. "I've got the license plate number but I don't think anyone's going to go chasing after him." I went outside, put back everything that had been taken out of the trunk and closed everything up again.
Just a relatively small incident but one that left me feeling horribly frustrated. This man obviously had no spare or jack, blatantly decided to see if I had what he needed, rummaged through my trunk right next to a heavily-traveled main road and was confidently able to stick around for another hour in plain view until he got some help.
Next time I have to call 911 I'll be sure to make an appointment well in advance!
Anna Clarke
St. Thomas

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