As far as I can tell, anyone who has ever called 911 in LA to report something has a story about it not being as helpful as they’d hoped. We’ve got a few of these tucked away in out archives. Back in 2004 Cindy blogged about a recording telling her that her call was not an emergency and being put on hold after calling 911 and last summer Spencer started a running count of how many times he called 1-800-ASKLAPD to report drug deals & prostitution happening right outside of his house only to never have an officer even drive by. Today LA Observed points to Here in Van Nuys where Andrew is documenting minute by minute his call to 911 and then the wait for a reaction.
4:45pm: A man parks a truck in front of your house, blocking your driveway. He is dressed in para-military clothing and boots. He gets out of the truck and walks up and down your street, throwing objects at various houses…
At 5:05pm you call “911”. The operator, here in Van Nuys, answers in Spanish. Not English. You don’t know if you’ve reached 911. Then you say, “Is this 911?” She answers back in Spanish. Then you are transferred to a police operator. You describe a weird man in front of your house, doing strange things, and ask if they can send a cop car over to check it out.
6:02pm: He finally drives away.
6:10pm: The LAPD drives past your house.
For every one of these stories someone seems to have an idea how to get a better reaction. Personally I’ve been told (by friends, not law enforcement) never to call 911, but rather to call a local dispatch. I’ve also been told to make the situation sound “a little worse than it is” to get an officer to show up quicker. While I haven’t tried those myself, nor do I recommend them, it definitely is worth asking if calling 911 isn’t the best way to get help fast, what is, and why isn’t 911 what it’s billed as being? In fact, this is exactly the kind of thing that I’d love to hear from the folks at the LAPD blog about, maybe they have some insight?