ST. LOUIS ( -- It's a problem News 4 has been following for months, and 911 dispatch delays are still plaguing the city of St. Louis today. However, city officials say they're taking new steps to bring the dispatch system into the 21st Century.

"I called the police two times, and they didn't answer, anytime. I was working really late, it was probably midnight, and like a homeless man, I'm assuming, knocked on my window with a box cutter and was asking for money and I was in there by myself," Kris Cole said. 

Cole is a new business owner on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis. She says by the time she actually got ahold of police, the man had left her alone.

Cole said she expects someone to answer when dialing 911 "especially down here. That has never happened before. So I was shocked. I called two times, and I was like how are you not answering the phone."

In 2020 and into early 2021, 64% of calls were answered by dispatchers in the city within 10 seconds. A significant decline from 2018 numbers, when nearly 80% of calls were being answered within that same time span. City officials say they're working to change that. 

"It really is a process of selecting a new system, merging the data, making sure people are trained," Public Safety Director Dr. Dan Isom said. 

Isom said for the last 50 years, police and fire have operated on separate dispatching systems in different locations. 

"If fire or EMS has to respond to a call, they need to make sure the scene is clear to respond. That requires them contacting the police department, if the police department is busy and they can't contact them, then they can't respond to your fire. Simply being in the same building, you can yell down the hall and say is the scene clear, and then an officer could respond," Isom said. 

Isom said the entire process will take a year. However, he says citizens could see and feel a more immediate impact.

"The end goal is better public safety," Isom said. "The end goal is we hope that more citizens will get their calls answered more quickly and we'll be able to respond to people in crisis a lot better."

Within the next 30-60 days, we're told changes will be in the works. Right now, the city is looking to hire 25 new dispatchers. 

The St. Louis City Public Safety Committee will meet Wednesday to discuss hiring needs. 

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved


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