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There’s a joke going around Philadelphia, in very poor taste, that if you call 911, they won’t send an officer out to investigate unless you add, "AND I HEARD SCREAMING" to whatever crime you’re calling about. As in, "There are guys selling crack right now on the corner of 30th and Cambridge St…AND I HEARD SCREAMING."

I am determined to try this next time I have an emergency, since recent Philadelphia 911 calls by myself and my friends, for crimes ranging from a man flagrantly exposing himself within a few feet of a children’s playground, to a man brutally beating a bleeding 12 year old against an SUV, have resulted not only in no officer arriving, but in the 911 dispatcher literally asking, "And what do you expect the police to do about that, ma’am?"

I can only imagine how many of our "insignificant" 911 calls are ignored or otherwise mishandled every day in America—not to mention how many situations evolved from seemingly "minor" incidents into violent crimes because police dispatchers chose to ignore them.

Earlier this year, officers in Wisconsin didn’t respond to a phone call made by University of Winconsin student Rebecca Zimmerman because the dispatcher didn’t hear sounds signaling an emergency—although Zimmerman was being attacked when she called—and neglected to arrive for a full 48 minutes. Zimmerman died as a result; her killer has still not been found.

Here in Pennsylvania, Bucks County resident Brenda Orr, who suffered from debilitating MS, dialed 911 after her bed caught on fire while she was in it, only to be put on hold by the dispatcher. She ultimately died in the blaze.

911 operators whose negligence allows emergency calls to go unanswered should be held responsible for their carelessness—a crime in its own right. If you or a loved one has been a victim of 911 negligence, contact The Ferrara Law Firm to discuss your rights and options with attorney Mike Ferrara, who has successfully handled botched 911 cases in the past.

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