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911 Dispatch Error Led to Delayed Response to 'Bleach Attack,' Police Say

By Patty Wetli | February 26, 2014 7:52am
 The initial 911 call after an attack near the mayor's home was never dispatched, police say.
The initial 911 call after an attack near the mayor's home was never dispatched, police say.
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DNAinfo/Erica Demarest

RAVENSWOOD — The delayed police response to an attack in Ravenswood on Saturday — in which bleach was thrown in a woman's face during an attempted robbery just blocks from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's house — had residents swarming the Internet with angry comments about too few officers being assigned to North Side neighborhoods.

A witness on the scene estimated that neighbors waited with the victim for 30 minutes before an officer arrived.

"Despicable," one neighbor posted online.

"Explain why a city with some of the highest taxes in the U.S. can't provide enough police coverage to respond to a violent, armed attack on one of its citizens," another resident said.

Cmdr. Elias Voulgaris of the Town Hall Police District responded to those complaints on Tuesday via an email to DNAinfo Chicago.

"It was a dispatch error on the original call," Voulgaris said. "The dispatcher's supervisor has pulled an investigation into the incident so I can't really comment on that."

As additional calls were made to 911 regarding the incident, which occurred in the 4400 block of North Paulina Street about 3:20 p.m., a second call was dispatched and an officer responded, Voulgaris said.

"Yes there was time lost between the first/original call and the second/subsequent call," the commander said. "The officer who received the assignment acknowledged the assignment immediately."

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) acknowledged a mistake had been made but further clarified the lag between calls made to 911 regarding the attack and the time at which the officer arrived at the scene.

Where the life of a victim is in danger, paramedics are sent to immediately tend to the injured person, he said, while police officers chase after suspects.

"The officer went to look for suspects first," he said. "When they didn't find the suspects, they went to the victim."

The Crime in Wrigleyville + Boystown blog continues to assert that rather than dispatch error, the delay was due to a lack of manpower in the Town Hall District, resulting in a "Radio Assignments Pending" status, meaning there are no officers available to respond.

While not denying that does occur at times, Voulgaris said, "In this case it was not the cause in the response time."