Thursday, August 02, 2007

Why Calling 911 Won't Always Work

Homeowner surprises would-be intruder
In the early morning hours of July 19 a Belleair homeowner heard a sound outside his home on Winston Drive. As he got up to investigate, it sounded to him like someone trying to open the rear door.

When he inadvertently switched on an interior light, the startled burglar fled; possibly believing he had tripped a motion sensor. The homeowner reported he saw someone running away from the house.

Thinking it was all over, the homeowner set the alarm and returned to bed. A few moments later the alarm went off. He tried to call 911, but the phone line was dead.

It was later discovered that the telephone box outside had been pulled from the wall. A quick inspection found that the wires connecting the alarm to a call center also had been pulled.

The homeowner used his cell phone to call 911. Belleair police Chief Tom Edwards said that within two minutes police arrived on the scene.

This has happened in many other home invasions as well. The argument that you can just dial 911, and that you don't need to be armed, doesn't work. Luckily, the homeowner got to his cell phone in time ("in time" in this case being defined as 120 seconds, which is ample time for any criminal to murder a victim and get away) but unless your cell phone is GPS-enabled, the 911 operator won't be able to give police your location in the event that you can't. (On your home phone, the dispatchs immediately knows where you live.) And your cell phone won't always be within easy reach.

It doesn't sound like the would-be invader was terribly intent on getting inside anyway - although he came back, he took off again at the first sign of confrontation. Not all perpetrators will do that.

I find this puzzling:
Edwards said he would not term this an attempted “home invasion” because the suspect may have believed the home was empty. The homeowner had been out of town for a few days prior to the event.

How can authorities determine the mindset of someone they can't even find?

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