NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - Imagine calling 911 for help and finding the dispatcher on the other end can't figure out who to send. Depending on where you are, a call to 911 from your cellphone could cause confusion on both ends of the line.
Normally, reporters are not part of the story. But News 4's investigation was sparked when Nalina Shapiro called 911 to report an erratic driver and during the 911 call learned there was a problem with the system.
Tuesday evening, Shapiro called 911 to report an erratic driver on the Robert Moses Parkway heading away from Niagara Falls. The female driver has stated that she was intoxicated. Shapiro told the 911 dispatcher where the truck was, and that's where the confusion began.
The dispatcher asked Shapiro where she was located, and then transferred her to the Niagara Falls dispatcher. Once there, she was transferred again when the Niagara Falls dispatcher said the Robert Moses Parkway is not in the jurisdiction of Niagara Falls Police. Shapiro was then transferred again, this time to State Park Police.
All the confusion led to a four-minute delay in sending someone to the scene. Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour says the driver was never found.
"There's a little bit of confusion on who the proper jurisdiction is there... sheriff's office, City of Niagara Falls, State Parks Police, State Police," Voutour explained. "Since [Shapiro's] phone call I spoke with all of those agencies and we all agreed any future calls will be transferred to State Police who have the proper jurisdiction there. So it avoids the confusion for all four agencies and hopefully we can serve you better."
Senior Niagara County Sheriff's Dispatcher Marc Kasprzak says they handle all of the wireless 911 calls in the county. However, the cities of Lockport and Niagara Falls also have their own dispatchers for landline calls.
Having separate dispatchers means transfers aren't uncommon, and 90 percent of the time the sheriff's office says it's a seamless process - but the technology isn't perfect.
"If the call was sent to the wrong person or was dropped, it could impact the outcome," Kasprzak said.
Voutour added, "We're always trying to perfect our craft and do things right."
Improvements in technology are helping dispatchers get someone to an emergency more easily.
Kasprzak said, "Our mapping technology allows us to see where incidents are. It allows us to see where our patrol cars are on the map, and it allows us to see where those phone calls are coming from."
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