911 calls show delay to burglary call

November 29, 2012 5:00:12 PM PST
911 calls are shedding new light on a Durham woman's claim that her call to 911 seemingly went unanswered.

Sandy Tuck told the ABC11 I-Team that she called 911 several times, but it took almost an hour for police to show up. Now, the Durham's 911 director is defending his operator.

"I could've been killed that night," said Tuck.

That's what Tuck told the I-Team Wednesday. She was still shaken from a home break-in.

"Yes, I was scared, nervous,"she said.

Tuck could hear the thieves inside, trashing her home as she sat in her car and somehow calmly called 911. She called three times according to records obtained by the I-Team.

» Listen to Tuck's first 911 call. «

» Listen to Tuck's second 911 call. «

» Listen to Tuck's third 911 call. «

The first call came just before 3 a.m.

Operator: "Durham 911, where's your emergency?"

Tuck: "Yes, I need someone? I've been broke into and robbed. I just got home."

Operator: "Have you searched the house?"

Tuck: "All I did was open the door and the closets were pulled out. Everything was ransacked."

Fourteen minutes later, Tuck called again.

Operator: "Durham 911, where's your emergency?"

Tuck:  "Yes, I called not 20 minutes ago and I walked into my house and it'd been robbed and no one has? the police hasn't showed up and I'm not five minutes from the station."

Operator: "Have you searched around?"

Tuck: "I'm sitting here in front of the apartment and everything."

Operator:  "OK. I will tell them that you did call back in reference to it. But, I do have a unit en route to you."

Tuck: "It's been 20 minutes, ma'am."

Operator: "OK. I understand but I don't drive the car. So I can just update them about your concern, ma'am."

It's that remark that upset Tuck. Still, a half hour later, she reluctantly called back.

Operator: "Durham 911, where's your emergency?"

Tuck: "Yes, is anyone coming?"

Operator: "Yes, ma'am. We have an officer en route. Has anything changed?"

Tuck: "I am still sitting outside. Stuff was piled up on my bed. I don't know where they are."

Operator:  "OK. We have an officer en route to you."

Tuck: "Well, it's been almost 40 minutes, ma'am."

Tuck actually waited nearly 45 minutes before an officer arrived.

Now, the Director of the Durham Emergency Communication Center, James Soukup, is defending his 911 operator saying in part, "The information received from the victim did not indicate this was an in-progress call and was classified correctly based what was provided. It is recognized that this event was traumatic and we empathize with her situation."

So did the traditional advice given to 911 callers to speak plainly, calmly convince the operator that Tuck wasn't in immediate danger? For Tuck, it shouldn't matter.

"When a woman calls in and she says she's alone, I don't think that she has to be sitting there for 50 minutes, scared and alone, waiting for someone to respond when there's a substation not five minutes from her house," said Tuck.

That substation is a 3 minute drive away. However, emergency officials said officers were too busy responding to another burglary on Broad Street. That call came in eight minutes before Tuck's first call and was given priority.

Regardless, the 911 call center admits the response time for Tuck was much longer than usual.

"You cannot begin to imagine the horror that I felt and how I sat there for 50 minutes not knowing what was going to happen," said Tuck.

"The statement made on the second call by the 911 communication officer could have been stated more effectively and will be reviewed with the employee," said Soukup.

ABC11 asked what's a 911 caller to do. We were told they should be "as complete as possible."

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