Who responds when you call 911?

July 11, 2008 3:57:33 PM PDT
13 Undercover is back with another exclusive questioning your safety, especially if you live in Harris County suburbs. When you call for help, will the closest law enforcement officer get the call? We've shown you evidence the sheriff's office is cannibalizing patrols your taxes pay for to make sure certain neighborhoods have their contract patrols. How some Houston neighborhoods get cheated.

Jim nelson was beating the heat in the neighborhood swimming pool in Kenswick.

"I've been here about 30 years," he said.

This is unincorporated Harris County and Kenswick is one of hundreds of neighborhoods who pay extra for law enforcement protection.

I asked him if he called 911 for help, did he expect the closest cop to show up.

"Yes sir," he replied.

We have news for Mr. Nelson and the rest of you in Harris County's suburbs.

There is a chance when you call 911 in unincorporated Harris County you are not going to get closest unit to his house.

"That's absolutely right, there's a chance that can happen," said Chief Deputy Danny Billingsley of the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

911 call takers don't even check.

"They do not, they are call takers they don't have time to do that," said Lisa Dodson with the Harris County Sheriff's Office Dispatch.

Nelson and other Kenswick folks pay taxes for a sheriff's patrol but it also pays for a security contract with Precinct 4 constables. So county 911 call takers forward the call to the constables first, even if the contract deputy isn't on duty, even if a sheriff's deputy is closer.

"The gentlemen's agreement is on calls in the contract they'll get first shot whether it's an emergency or not," Dodson said.

"It may not make sense but it's the nature of the beast," said Chief Billingsley.

When Jim Nelson needs the law he calls the number for the constable on the sign in his neighborhood.

"If a 911 call goes directly to the precinct, we may never know at all," said Chief Billingsley.

Even if a sheriff's deputy is around the corner.

I asked Mr. Nelson if he thought that sounded stupid.

"Very," he replied.

"That is one of the weaknesses of the system basically nine agencies patrolling in Harris County," said Chief Billingsley.

The county 911 operators can find on their computers where sheriff deputy cars are whenever they want. They are equipped with GPS, but not constable cars.

"If one outfit has GPS, all of them should have," Nelson said.

So if Jim Nelson needs help, he gets it as fast as he can.

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