By Karen Morfitt
DENVER (CBS4) – A number of questions are being raised after a call to 911 is said to have gone unanswered for more than 15 minutes.
The call was made to report an armed robbery in the Whittier neighborhood on Sunday at approximately 8 p.m.
Michael Davanzo was at work at the Whittier Cafe when he says the Lincoln Market next door was robbed.
“The cashier and one of the patrons from next door were at our front door trying to get in, so we ran up front real quick and unlocked it and let them in,” Davanzo said.
The two men who showed up at the door had already called 911 for help.
“When we were in the back on hold with 911 he said that he had been on for about 17 minutes or so,” Davanzo said.
Devanzo says at least three people were trying to reach 911 and everyone was put on hold.
“We were all just kind of frustrated not really knowing what to do or how to go about getting help,” Davanzo said.
Eventually a dispatcher answered and everyone did make it out safely.
It wasn’t long before word of what happened spread, eventually reaching the desk of Denver City Council President Albus Brooks. Brooks says he looked into the call times.
“They are pretty accurate,” Brooks said. “The issue is 911 does not track if they are not picking up the phone, so we do know something was happening, we just weren’t able to track it.”
Brooks spoke with the director of 911 who reportedly told him Sunday night was busy and the call center was overwhelmed.
Brooks says Denver’s growing population, among other things, has also caused a capacity issue that is now a cause for concern.
“There are several issues going on … it’s unacceptable, but I can tell you right now … and we as city council are working to help fund this issue,” Brooks said.
CBS4 reached out to the city’s safety department and 911 director. A representative was unavailable for an interview before the story hit air at 10 p.m. Tuesday. A spokesperson says they are looking into the matter and will be available to comment later in the week.
The director of 911 did provide a statement to members of the Whittier Neighborhood Association.
Statement To The Whittier Neighborhood Association
To: The Residents of the Whittier Neighborhood
On February 12, 2017, Denver 911 processed several calls related to a robbery at the Lincoln Market in the Whittier Community of Denver. Based on a higher than usual volume of high priority calls received and the severity of the incidents reported on Sunday evening, some callers were on hold.
As the Director of Denver 911, I want to reassure the community that this is not the norm. For example, in January of 2017, 94.5% of calls were answered in 40 seconds or less. But, we understand the concern associated with being on hold for any amount of time when calling 911, and are committed to finding ways to better deliver services to you, our citizens, including a review of our processes.
With over 92% of 911 calls received from mobile devices and multiple calls received during highly visible or audible incidents, this can place strain on the 911 system. Understanding this, along with the fast growth in our population, we have increased the number of employees hired, and added additional academies to train new employees. If you want to help your city by getting involved first hand, we are accepting applications for 911 Emergency Communications Operators (call takers) and 911 Police Dispatchers.
If you are ever in an emergency situation and for some reason you are being placed on hold when you call 911, there are additional ways to reach employees within 911:
- Text 911 directly. Just enter 911 in the “send” or “to” option on your mobile device, and then type your need for assistance in the message area. If your call is placed within Denver, we will receive your text and communicate with you via text. We can even call you directly to follow up. To learn about more features and to see a preview of Text to 911, visit our website: www.denvergov.org/911now
• Call the non-emergency line: 720-913-2000Please remember that when you hang up after placing a call to 911, a call taker must call you back and make contact before they are able to process other calls coming into 911. Please be patient, stay on the line, and keep your place in the queue while you wait for a Denver 911 professional to assist you.The safety of our community members is our top priority. I may not have answered all your questions or your concerns, but I remain available to serve you within my capacity as Director of Denver 911. I may be reached at 720-913-2025 or via email at Athena.Butler@denvergov.org.
Karen Morfitt joined the CBS4 team as a reporter in 2013. She covers a variety of stories in and around the Denver metro area. Connect with her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @karenmorfitt or email her tips.