Our president, Serethea Reid, was a member of the panel at the November 22, 2010 seminar “Breaking the Code of Silence” presented by the Office of the State’s Attorney,, West Side Community Justice Center. The objectives of the seminar were:

  1. Teach citizens how to describe a suspect and report a crime.
  2. Inform citizens of the procedures used by the Office of Emergency Management & Communications when handling a 911 call
  3. Discuss ways to bridge the gap between the community, the OEMC and the police

 Describing a Suspect

In response to the need for better, more descriptive information when a crime is reported, Dr. Ronald Rufo, Chicago Police Department, gave an engaging and entertaining presentation on the best methods for describing a suspect. His presentation also included exercises to help citizens use their new skills.

 Basic Street Safety

Dr. Rufo also spoke about basic street safety. Here are some interesting findings:

  • We make our impressions in the first 10 seconds. Go with your gut.
  • 95% of all attacks occur from the rear. Pay attention to who is behind you.
  • Criminals look for distracted people. Stay alert
  • If someone is too close, make them uncomfortable by:
    • Making statements like: ”Oh man I just threw up.   I got the flu”
    • Talking about religion
    • Talking to yourself and acting crazy
    • Making statements like: “Don’t touch me there. Stay back. Leave me alone”

Office of Emergency Management & Communications (OEMC)

The OEMC allows group tours. The community is invited to come and tour the facility which handles both police and fire calls. An appointment is advised.

 Melana Raehl, an instructor for OEMC,gave an overview of the sequence of events when a call comes in to the 911 center. Although she was not able to address strategic plans or issues related to the management of the OEMC, she was able to clarify a number of points.

Anonymous Calling

You must state that you want to remain anonymous first when you call. Your call content may be sent to the dispatch while you are talking and it will be too late to remain anonymous. They will automatically ask if you want to remain anonymous if you state that the call is regarding a gang or drug activity.

 Call Results Tracking

There is no automatic tracking of your call.

 Call Priority Levels

There are three levels: Red, Blue and Green

  • Red- happening now with imminent threat to life
  • Blue-just occurred within last 10 minutes
  • Green-everything else

 Raising the Priority of Your Call

Making multiple calls will not raise the priority of your call. The priority level assigned when you call will not change no matter how many times you call.

Cell Phone Calls

OEMC cannot get the exact address of the location of a cell phone call. They also cannot see the owner information. They only know the location is on a given block

 Bridging the Gap

Our president, Serethea Matthews, spoke from her status as a resident and her actions as a community activist. Following the presentation by the OEMC, she presented her informal findings based upon the new information presented that night by the speakers, questions and concerns expressed by participants in the audience,  and her experiences as a 911 caller, she called for the following:

  • Sensitivity training for the 911 call takers to teach them to show more respect for citizens calling in to report crimes
  • A tracking system so that citizens can determine when and whether their call received a response by the police
  • Accountability by all: citizens reporting crimes, 911 management and the police department

 The Office of the Cook County State’s Attorney, West Side Community Justice Center, seeks to be proactive in helping citizens create and maintain a safer community. They are open to suggestions for future seminars. Please feel free to contact them at (708) 386-7301 with your comments.

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