Call 911

Trying to report a crime in Dallas is almost worse than the crime itself

Gamez was explaining to me that Kix's first call would have been taken by a "911 or 311 call-taker."

"I am going to say 311 call-taker, even though they may not be in that capacity. They're trained like that. They wear different hats, and at different times they could be pulling off that 311 hat and putting on a 911 hat."

Wait a minute. You mean 911 call-takers are the same people as 311 call-takers?

"The same person," he said. "Exactly."

Now I am beginning to understand. I vowed to myself several years ago that I would go to my grave without ever calling 311 again. That's the sucker number, the one you call about a broken water main. It's the one with the 45-minute phone tree where they finally come on and say, "May I have your ad valorem property tax account number, please?"

Do you remember anybody ever telling us that 911 and 311 are now the same thing? I would have considered that very important information. By the way, I did a computer newspaper search back several years, and I sure couldn't find a hint of it.

Gamez said the two functions had been largely merged as "an efficiency." I would say that depends on your definition of efficiency.

Show you how dumb I am--before I started working on this I still thought 911 was the cops! I mean, what's next? You call 911, and you hear the colorful sounds and music of the bazaar in the background? "We are most please-ed to service your complainings, kind Texas sir."

Kix and the several agencies working on his complaint played phone tag all day. Finally at about 7:15 p.m., Kix received a call from the "expediters," who began asking him to repeat all his information--make, model, location, plates, etc. It was at this point that Kix went postal.

"I'm really sorry, ma'am, but I reported all this stuff this morning, and this has been an infuriating 10 hours. I have sat here and waited and waited. Nothing. Now I'm sort of guaranteed there's no way I can get my car back."

The expediter explained to Kix that the delay was his fault, for having failed to sit in one place all day until she called. "I personally called you back earlier at two different numbers you left with us, and I got somebody else's voice mail at both numbers," she said.

Kix's voice began a slow slide up the scale toward howl: "Regardless of the fact that my call was made this morning, you didn't call until tonight, and I just can't understand..."

"Sir," she interrupted, "I didn't get here until 2:30."

"I don't care!" he screamed. "This is [unintelligible] bureaucratic bullshit! My car has been stolen, and I have to fuckin' sit by the phone for four or five hours. That's bullshit! I gave you guys a phone number this morning. You guys wouldn't return the call because of the long distance, despite the fact I said it was the only number where you can reach me. I'm sorry I'm taking it out on you, but I'm telling you right now, I can't fucking believe this is how you guys operate with a stolen vehicle.

"I would hate to be shot in Dallas! I would fuckin' hate it!"

After a pause, she said, "Wouldn't you hate to be shot anywhere, sir?"

Excellent point.

The end of this tale is that Kix's car was found a couple of weeks later. Not by Maybe-911. Not by the expediters. Not by Staff Review. And apparently not by Auto Theft.

No, his car was found by his parents in Iowa. They called Kix and said they had received a letter from the Dallas Police Auto Pound on Vilbig Road informing them that the car--a total wreck--was on the police impound lot.

Lieutenant Rick Andrews of the Auto Pound explained to me that a letter was sent to Kix's parents' address in Iowa, because that was the address to which the car was registered, based on its Vehicle Identification Number.

I asked this: Since Kix had left multiple contact phone numbers with Maybe-911-Maybe-Not and with the Expediter Section, all of which had been checked out by Staff Review and passed on to Auto Theft, how come nobody called him when the car came in?

"We don't read offense reports," he said.

They find the VIN, look up the registration, mail a letter. That's it.

As an older colleague, I felt compelled to offer Kix some advice on dealing with situations like these in the future. So often, I find that young people don't know how to work within the system. "Next time you need a car," I said, "steal one."

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