Listening to the 9-11 operator call of missing Cleveland girl Amanda Berry can be upsetting. She pleads with the dispatcher to send police immediately several times. The dispatcher becomes irate and sounds frustrated with her — seemingly trying to rush her off the phone.
At first blush, one may find it odd that a woman calls saying she has been missing for 10 years has to again beg for assistance from the operator. Granted, 911 may get prank and false calls often, but there could be another reason. Perhaps Berry knew that emergency calls from her neighborhood may not get the most rapid and most thorough response and assistance from law enforcement.
Details are surfacing about Berry and two other young women, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and held captive for 10 years in a Seymore Avenue home by a man, Ariel Castro. His two brothers Pedro Castro and Onil Castro were arrested, held on unrelated charges and then freed and not charge in connection of the kidnapping. Some say perhaps too quickly. It’s hard to believe they had no clue what their brother was up to all these years. We are also learning that neighbors had called the police on a few occasions before about peculiar activity in the house. Reports state there was writing of the words “RIP” on the basement wall of the home and mention of a fourth girl once living in the home who is no longer there and who was not rescued. The Cleveland-Plain Dealer suggests perhaps was Ashley Summers who disappeared when she was 14-years old around the same area.
One neighbor reported calling about seeing a woman and a child in a basement window pounding for help in 2011. Another reported in 2002 calling about a naked woman crawling around the back yard. Yet another neighbor says she called. Each time, police responded did the basic and cursory review and left.
These are the same police that were well aware that there had been numerous cases of missing girls yet they did not bother to explore and investigate beyond the bare minimum.
One could hasten to guess that perhaps the lower socio-economic stature of the neighborhood and perhaps the race of the majority of the residents may have something to do with the not so stellar investigations and mediocre treatment.
A community activist told Al Sharpton on his MSNBC television show today that Berry’s mother was frustrated with what she felt was insufficient Police assistance in helping find her daughter that she solicited the assistance of community activists and neighbors. He said it was only after police noticed their search activity that they finally offered resources and support in their search and rescue effort.
This recent case brings back memories of another horrific incident from 2009. That is when convicted police finally discovered that convicted serial rapist Anthony Sowell had murdered and kept in his home the decomposing bodies of 11 women he killed and possibly raped. Residents had complained numerous times about a rancid stench and odor coming from the home. Police ignored the calls and again, in that case did not respond appropriately. Critics said because the women were poor, black and drug users or prostitutes, they didn’t bother do a proper hunt for them when they showed up missing.
Perhaps this unfortunate episode can be a wake up call to law enforcement officers that police urban and low income communities to be more thorough when responding to calls of faint cries for help in a 3 mile block where it is known girls had vanished from. Maybe try pretending they are looking for Natalee Holloway or Chandra Levy.