Wednesday, November 5, 2008

House damaged after 911 call goes unanswered

Police in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada are looking for answers after a 911 call about an out-of-control Halloween night house party never got dispatched to the local police station.

The result, which came after a series of complaints about the party, left one home with multiple damages after it was pelted with rocks by suspected party-goers at a neighboring residence.

“It’s safe to say our officers have done inquiries in relation to all of the phone calls, and it would appear that the last phone call was never dispatched down to the Vernon detachment,” said Vernon Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Gord Molendyk. “We are definitely following up on this. We want to find out exactly what happened in relation to how these calls came in. We’ve asked for transcripts of the calls in relation to the complaints.”

According to Molendyk, police received a complaint of a noisy house party shortly after 11 p.m. Friday. Vernon bylaw officers, who work evening shifts and handle noisy party complaints, were sent to the house. Molendyk said the bylaw officer told police the party was subsiding, and no police officers were sent out.

Ken and Melanie Westgarde, the homeowners whose home was damaged by vandals, say they placed four calls to RCMP. Melanie Westgarde said that her husband made the first call at 10:30, saying a firecracker had hit their home, and an officer called back at 11:15 to see how the party was going, and informed the Westgardes that he would not be attending because of a busy Halloween evening, but would still try to send somebody out to the party.

Between 11:30 and 12, the violence started to escalade, and Ken Westgarde called the RCMP non-emergency line for the second time and asked to have an officer sent out. The Westgardes say no officer showed up at their door that they are aware of.

After hearing an explosion outside, and with rocks being thrown at their home, through their home and at them, Ken Westgarde called 911 at 12:30 and asked to have a police officer sent out immediately. None came out, say the couple.

By 2:15, the crowd had dispersed, and the RCMP were phoned again, at their non-emergency number. And Westgarde was told that nobody was going to come out.

“At the time, I was shocked,” said Ken Westgarde. “The biggest thing was I called 911, I got a hold of somebody. What happened after that I don’t know. The police never came out.”

The Westgarde’s home suffered several broken windows and other damage, and rock damage to a vehicle.

The incident is not sitting well with the local police. “We as the police department for this community take our service to the public very, very seriously,” said Molendyk. “We do not like to have anyone who calls 911 not to get service. We’d like to know the answer as to what happened.”

This is not the first incident involving Vernon RCMP and an unanswered 911 call. A Vernon woman is suing the local RCMP after she was beaten by her then-boyfriend in June 2004. She called 911 during her boyfriend’s attack on her, but police did not arrive until 90 minutes after her original call. (info from Vernon Morning Star)

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