By the Better Government Association,
with Dane Placko/FOX Chicago News
CHICAGO — When you call 911, you hope the police will respond in a matter of minutes.
But some residents of Chicago’s West Side Austin neighborhood just hope they’ll see a police car at all.
Ron and Serethea Reid have become so alarmed by slow and non-existent 911 response, they’ve formed a community organization to make their voices heard. They said if it’s a shooting or major emergency, the police will get there—sometimes quite quickly. But it’s a different story, they said, for quality of life issues like drug sales, public drinking and fights.
“There’s been far too many instances where there’s been no response at all,” said Serethea Reid.
Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), whose office is in the Austin police district, said even she had to wait when she called 911 because an upset young man was in the office.
The police department took their time coming, at least it felt that way,” said Graham.
Since sounding the alarm last summer, the Central Austin Neighborhood Association has met several times with high ranking police officials and Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management (OEMC). But when they ask for specific information about 911 response times in their neighborhood, they’re told again and again they can’t have those numbers because the city doesn’t want the bad guys to know where response is slow.
“If we start making public response times, we’re creating a situation that could be an advantage to someone other than these good citizens,” said OEMC Deputy Director Clarence Thomas.
We got the same answer when we tried digging into last summer’s fatal shooting of nine-year-old Tanaja Stokes. She and her seven-year-old cousin were jumping rope in the Roseland neighborhood when a crowd of gangbangers began shouting at one another. A neighbor who does not want to be identified called 911, but said it took police more than 15 minutes to respond. By then, Tanaja had been caught in gang crossfire.
“If (the police) would’ve come when I called… those boys would have seen the police and they probably would have kept going,” said the neighbor.
We wanted to know whether that call got the same attention as other 911 calls throughout the city. But the OEMC has refused all our Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for 911 response times for each police district.
“This is a work in progress, and it’s a work in progress in partnership with the citizens of the community,” Chicago Police Commander Jim Roussel said. “So all the questions that are being raised are great questions and we need to have honest, forthright conversations about it.”