Woman spends 30 minutes on hold with 911 in Cleveland

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW)– A woman told the FOX 8 I-Team she called 911 in Cleveland and waited on hold 30 minutes.

Cuyahoga County officials said records from that phone call show it lasted more than a half hour.

Kristen Allen said she called 911 while driving home after watching fireworks on the Fourth of July. She saw something that made her think a woman might be in danger along the Shoreway.

She sent us a screenshot from her phone showing her call to 911 lasted more than 34 minutes.

“You can’t have people waiting over 30 minutes for someone to respond when they attempt to call 911. I was very troubled, to say the least,” Allen said.

As we investigated what happened, we found the delay began the moment she dialed 911. Her call rang into Cuyahoga County dispatch.

Alex Pellom, with Cuyahoga County’s Director of Public Safety and Justice Services, told us it took three minutes just for the call to get picked up in county dispatch. Then the call had to be transferred to city dispatch.

“One moment. I have to connect you to Cleveland. Please do not hang up,” a county call taker said on the recording. Once the call went to city dispatch, Allen’s call went to a recording.

“You have reached the City of Cleveland Police. Please do not hang up,” she heard.

The full city recording was not immediately available. Pellom told us once Allen’s call was sent to the city, records show she was on the line for 31 more minutes.

“Something needs to be done. Something needs to be done, immediately. And someone needs to be held accountable,” Allen said.

As for the initial delay, the county said its dispatchers were slow to pick up because calls for a carjacking, a shooting and a fire all came in within a minute. We’ve requested records and an explanation from the city of Cleveland. A spokesperson said the city was beginning to investigate.

Allen said she never thought of just hanging up. She says she finally spoke to a city dispatcher.

“Well, she said it was the Fourth of July and they were getting a number of calls due to fireworks,” Allen said.

For months, the I-Team has exposed delays with 911 calls.

A new system recently went into effect in Cuyahoga County to handle 911 calls from cell phones more quickly. Now this. We may never know more about that incident along the Shoreway that led to the call in this case.

“Increase the number of lines and increase staffing, so you can handle the call volume,” Allen said.

The county plans to talk to the city about this call.

We’ll update this story once the 911 centers determine more about what happened.

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