- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Northwest woman who was beaten and robbed outside a Metro station Wednesday called for police on her cell phone as her attacker doubled back toward her.

But she had to wait 20 minutes for officers to arrive because the 911 emergency dispatcher had sent them to the wrong quadrant of the city.

“It was incompetence from the beginning,” said the woman, who asked that her name not be published because her attacker is at large.

The incident, which is being investigated, is the latest in a series of mistakes by dispatchers at the city’s Office of Unified Communications, whose call takers and dispatchers handle 911 emergency calls for the police and fire departments.

For example, The Washington Times reported Thursday that fire officials were investigating a miscommunication that resulted in three firefighters being injured during a blaze at an auto-body shop in Northeast last week.

Earlier this year, The Times reported numerous incidents in which dispatchers sent rescue workers to wrong addresses during fires or medical emergencies.

Wednesday’s incident occurred at about 9:40 p.m. near the intersection of Quincy and 10th streets Northwest.

The woman said she had left the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro Station when a man knocked her to the ground and kicked her in the head and the right side of her body. He took her purse and ran away.

Only bruised in the robbery, the victim had been carrying her cell phone and house keys in her hands. She dialed 911 and told a dispatcher that she had been attacked near the Georgia Avenue Metro stop and described her assailant as she watched him flee.

When the woman told the dispatcher that her attacker was turning around and coming back toward her, the dispatcher told her to try to make him follow her so that police officers could catch him, the woman told The Times.

“At the time, I was like, ‘This is so not a cool idea,’ ” she said.

She walked toward a well-lit street, and the robber did not pursue her, she said.

The woman asked where the police officers were, and the dispatcher said they were on the scene looking for her, she said. No officers were in sight, she told the dispatcher, who then asked whether she was in Northeast or Northwest.

The dispatcher said Quincy and 10th streets intersect in Northeast and Northwest, but the woman pointed out that there is only one Georgia Avenue Metro stop and it is in Northwest.

She listened closely as the dispatcher and his supervisor tried to override the address in the dispatch computer, the woman told The Times.

When the officers arrived, they told her that dispatchers had told them that the victim was a man and that there was no description of the attacker, she said.

“There’s zero excuse for this,” said D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, a Democrat who represents Ward 4, where the attack occurred.

Mr. Fenty brought the incident to the attention of police Chief Charles H. Ramsey and E. Michael Latessa, interim director of the Office of Unified Communications.

“We’re aware of that, and it’s under investigation,” Mr. Latessa told The Times.

Council member Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Office of Unified Communications, said he is “very concerned” about low morale at the center and that labor-management issues have affected its quality of work.

“It’s not my sense that call-taking and dispatching has gotten worse,” Mr. Mendelson said. “Call-taking has gotten much better than a few years ago.

“However, I think there are periodic dribbles of mistakes that, first, have to be addressed, and, second, would greatly improve if the labor-management issues were resolved,” he said.


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