Broken call boxes leave drivers without helpline

November 18, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
Two years after a Progress Energy employee was abducted from a downtown Raleigh parking deck and later murdered, many call boxes designed to protect the public are not working. City leaders say they were unaware of the problem until Eyewitness News called.

A new parking deck on Wilmington Street downtown has been open for months, but emergency call boxes designed to keep people safe still aren't operational. Plastic wrap covers several and blue tape is stuck on others. One has an "out of service" sign stuck on it.

Some say the problem is inexcusable considering Raleigh has dealt with tragedy in parking decks before. A little more than two years ago, Progress Energy employee Cynthia Moreland was abducted from a parking lot on her way to work. She was later found murdered.

Increased security measures followed her death. The new deck does have cameras. The lights are on, and it's patrolled most of the day. But some say that's not nearly enough.

The site of nonworking call boxes upset to Katherine Hite who parked in the garage Wednesday with her stepson Pablo.

"If I were here when it was getting dark, or I was here myself without Pablo, I probably would be a lot more concerned," she offered.

Eyewitness News took video of the broken call boxes to Mayor Charles Meeker

"I wasn't aware of it, and it's certainly a great question to ask," he said.

After our questions, the mayor asked around. He said he found out the boxes use digital technology. That's not compatible with the 911 call center that's using analog technology. The problem should be resolved by mid-December.

"This kind of system ought to working. It will be soon. In the interim, people can use their cell phones if there's a problem," explained Meeker.

That won't help those who don't have mobile phones. Officials say their best advice is to walk with someone else until the boxes are up and working.


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