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Mpls. Residents Say 911 Calls Are Going Unanswered

The city says the callers aren't waiting long enough for someone to pick up.
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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The city of Minneapolis changed its 911 system in the wake of Minnesota’s worst workplace shooting last year. At that time, several panicked callers inside Accent Signage never got through to a dispatcher.

When WCCO-TV started getting complaints about more unanswered calls, we started asking questions and found the city has no way to track some callers not waiting long enough for help.

Last week, a call came in from a north Minneapolis home.

“I heard the three shots,” Jacqueline Delmain said.

When she looked outside, she saw a man dying in the street. She called 911 from her cell phone looking for help.

“I never got anything,” said Delmain, adding: “It was longer than I would have ever stayed on the phone with anybody else, ever.”

She says the phone kept ringing. Records show police showed up two minutes after the first report of a shooting.

“I started thinking how often does this happen?” she said.

What’s even more troubling is that Delmain never got the required call back from a dispatcher.

Last fall, when five employees at Accent Signage were shot and killed, two calls to 911 from inside went unanswered. Weeks later, the city made a change. During busy times, instead of a continued ring, 911 callers will hear a recorded message urging them to stay on the line.

But in Delmain’s case, the city says she didn’t stay on the line long enough. It says her call was in queue to be answered and it rang for 90 seconds before she hung up.

Matt Laible, from the city of Minneapolis’ Communications Department, said in a statement: “While a call is in the overflow queue, cell or phone number data isn’t available only if your call is placed in that specific area during very busy times, so if the caller hangs up, we have no way of reaching them back.”

Delmain’s 911 complaint is the fourth we’ve received into our newsroom in the last few months, but the city spokesperson says the system is working normally and that people who call in should do all they can to stay on the line and not hang up. On average in Minneapolis, a 911 call is answered within 8 seconds.

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