Saturday, October 24, 2009

Safety in downtown Woodstock

I received the following email from a reader. Has anyone else experienced unsafe conditions on the Square or in downtown Woodstock?

"I was in Woodstock the other day and 3 black and 2 Hispanic gang bangers were walking in the square yelling out profanity and being loud and obnoxious. I was trying to walk to my dentist. One knocked right into me. Not a sorry nothing.

"If I were elderly or disabled I would have been injured. I have seen this now many many times. I don't know where these kids are coming from but I don't like it at all. They hang in the park at night and you no longer feel safe to walk across the square. I have watched this for the past couple of years getting worse and worse.

"Very sad."

The Woodstock Square and our downtown streets are for everyone: men, women, children. No one should feel unsafe - at any time, at any hour - day, night, week-end.

If you observe unruly behavior, dial the Woodstock Police Department (WPD) at 815.338.2131. Tell the dispatcher exactly what is happening and where you are. Calling the Woodstock Police directly will get you help faster than dialing 9-1-1, because 9-1-1 calls go through the McHenry County Sheriff's Department, which will then connect you to Woodstock. So, just program WPD into your cell phone.

You might even just program it into the Speed Dial 9 position, so that all you have to do is press and hold "9" to be connected directly to WPD.

I wrote last week about Zero Tolerance. OK, here's an area of Z-T. If the gangbangers are going to hang out of the Square, fine. As long as they are polite, quiet, respectful of all.

Remember, you get half the sidewalk. Don't step off the walk into the grass, just to let an unruly mob push by. They get half the sidewalk; you get half. And without crude or profane comments or those "I dare you" stares.


Whitmore2 said...

All 911 calls go through the MCSD before being routed to the appropriate police department??

Gus said...

I don't know about "all" 911 calls, but 911 calls to the Woodstock Police go to MCSD. That's what I was told by a WPD Sgt.

If you live in another community, call your local PD and ask.

I'm not sure how 911 operators respond to "test" calls.

sadist said...

What do you mean "test" calls?

Sounds like MCSO is the PSAP for the area, which saves the individual municipalities millions of dollars.

sadist said...

One question - why was it important for the author of this email to point out the ethnicity of the five "gang bangers"?

Gus said...

Why did the author describe the ethnicity? Because it described the miscreants.

As to the "test" calls, many might expect 911 calls to be answered by their local departments and not have a clue what a PSAP is.

For example, in my own medical emergency, I dialed 911 from my cell phone. I didn't understand the operator or her identification of where my call was answered, and I hung up and dialed WPD directly.

BTW, the 911 operator never called back to see what the "hang-up" was.

The Madd Bulldog said...

A while ago, I was staggering thru da square when a bunch of malcredents purposely ran into me. They thought it was gonna be easy to knock down an old drunkard... but then again, this drunkard is around 350 pounds! I apologized to the punks as they got up and dusted off. I told'm last time something like this happened I fell over onto the down person, and it wasn't pretty. Doh.

Debra said...

And this is why we call our once fair town "Hoodstock"!
By fair I am NOT refering to skin color! Though in most cases it would apply.
The high school is a mess. The square is dangerous. Forget about going to the parks.
The cops, schools, hospitals, etc. do nothing about the ILLEGAL situation.
Time for a change my behind! Should be WE DEMAND A CHANGE!!!!

Gus said...

In what way is the high school a mess?

At what times of day is the Square dangerous?

Which parks, and what's wrong in them?

Frank said...

Gus-I'm not defending "gangbangers" in anyway but are you saying the police department should discriminate against them while they are in a public place? It would be nice if they could but they can't so they don't! Could you think how angry you would be for being discriminated because you are old? All I'm saying is regardless of creed, color, sex, or appearance someone is free to use profanities in the square or anywhere else. Its not a crime. Neither is a "death stare"! Welcome to the politically correct age of human kind!

Gus said...

Gangbangers and other miscreants draw attention to themselves by their behavior, attire, hairstyles, piercings, caps, colors.

If they don't break any laws (disorderly conduct, assault, battery, failure to yield half the sidewalk, contributing to the delinquency of minors, etc.), then let 'em be.

Profanity may or may not be protected speech. If I'm sitting on a bench in the Square Park or walking on a sidewalk downtown, I may become alarmed or disturbed and believe that my peace has been breached by the stream of profanity uttered by groups (gangs) of boys or girls, young adults or adults nearby or moving toward me.

If so, I need to summon the cops and ask that the officer arrest certain males or females in the group. In my case, I'm ready to go to court and testify as to what happened.

Another Lawyer said...

The First Amendment protects the right of assembly and speech. Obsenities may alarm and disturb you but the young men's presence and speech are both protected under that amendment.

Further, referral to african american or hispanic boys as gang bangers is offensive.

Gus said...

No, not offensive. Descriptive. The adjectives described the gangbangers.

No one alleged that African-American (black, if you please) or Hispanic boys were gangbangers.

If their obscenities alarm or disturb me AND breach my peace, it's Disorderly Conduct.

sadist said...

Yes, the author of the letter alleged they were "gangbangers". And pointing out their race without any other descriptors (i.e. clothing, height, weight, etc) merely shows prejudice. And to some people, that is offensive.

Moving along, a PSAP is a Public Safety Answering Point, which is the center that all 911 cellular and trunk line calls for an area are directed to. By routing 911 calls to a PSAP before being transferred to a local municipality, the municipality can save millions of dollars in equipment costs. I am sure the residents of Woodstock, as well as other small municipalities, can appreciate the savings by having their 911 calls routed to MCSO for transfer.

Secondly, what you described was not a "test" call (which, BTW, a call center must have prior knowledge of and approve), you described a "hang-up". While the terminology may seem pointless to you, it is a huge difference to someone in telecommunications.

Gus said...

Obviously, I know that my call was a hang-up. And that's why I commented that they didn't call me back to see why I had called. Like, was I having a medical emergency or in need of police assistance or something? I thought calling a hang-up back was S.O.P.

How do you arrange a "test" call, like from your cell phone or VoIP, in advance, if you don't know where the 911 call goes???

sadist said...

Generally the VOIP carriers will do a test call upon set up. You may not have knowledge of it.

It's pointless to do a test call on a cell phone; if it's a Phase 1 phone, all it will show is the location of the cell tower your phone is using. A Phase 2 phone will show the latitude and longitude of the area your phone is in. Neither will give any name or address information. It's a misconception that a cellular call will tell a dispatcher your information or pinpoint where you are.

As far as why they did not call you back, there are a few reasons. Does your cell phone have a yearly or biyearly contract?

Gus said...

The "test" call to which I'm referring is for the cell phone owner's benefit, not that of the system. If a caller, say from Woodstock, knows in advance that his 911 call would be answered by the Sheriff's Dept., then he is prepared to give his information twice, once to MCSD and a second time, after a short (hopefully) transfer delay, to the Woodstock PD dispatcher.

If he wants help faster, he'll just dial WPD directly.

sadist said...

Again, that's may be in Woodstock and your cell phone may connect to a tower in Crystal Lake. Then you make an immediate second call from the same spot and it bounces off a Woodstock or Hebron tower.

If everyone were to start making "test" calls, you would not only bog down the system but also tie up call takers, possibly delaying help to a true emergency. Not a good plan!

Frank said...

Gus-This is a two part question so please follow along. First, when is it EVER illegal to swear? Second, are you recommending I call a non-emergency phone number instead of 911 in an emergency?

Gus said...

Part one. I don't know.

Part two. The fastest way to reach the Woodstock Police Department is to dial its direct number.

Elsewhere in McHenry County? Figure it out in advance.

sadist said...

911 lines trump non-emergency lines...dial 911 in an emergency, local lines for all other calls.

Gus, until you have experience on the dispatch side of the radio with the current technology, please stop telling others what to do in emergencies!

Gus said...

sadist, care to have a little dialing contest to see who can reach the Woodstock Police Department faster?

You dial 911, wait for the MCSD to answer, explain what your need is in Woodstock, wait while they transfer you to Woodstock, and explain (again) what your need is.

I'll speed-dial the Woodstock PD by press-and-hold one button on my phone and hear the WPD dispatcher in two seconds.

Now, what is it you were saying?

I'm not "telling" anyone what to do, except figure it out before they need it.

sadist said...

Gus, you are assuming that the the PD is not dealing with a major incident at that time and has a call taker free to answer that non-emergency line.

Secondly, in the case of a TRUE emergency, MCSO can start giving pre-arrival instructions while the call is being transferred or break into the area dept's radio traffic to start giving out the call.

It's people like you, trying to give out "shortcut" advice that muck up the system. Inappropriate usage is the biggest battle telecommunicators face.

Gus said...

Nice try, sadist, but somehow I don't think WPD dispatchers just let incoming calls on the non-emergency line go to voicemail.

Tell me once more now, how calling the PD directly is "inappropriate" usage...

sadist said...

Once again, Gus, until you have experience on that side of the radio...

Let's take this scenario...there's a school shooting or major accident, the local comm center is inundated with transferred 911 is reasonable for a call taker to answer a non-emergency line and put it on hold right away. If you are calling with a heart attack on a local line instead of 911, how can you expect the call taker to know you have a true emergency? How many millions will you or your family sue for even though you were negligent?

Same scenario, you dial 911 and reach MCSO...they know your local PD is inundated and chose to start pre arrival instructions and send secondary local Rescue and your help is not delayed.

Gus said...

No pass on your scenario, sadist. Any police dispatcher who answers a phone and doesn't even ask whether the call is about an emergency before putting the caller on Hold, deserves to get fired.

sadist said...

And any citizen who dials a local line with a true emergency is irresponsible. Any dispatcher in their right mind will help you as fast as they can.

As much as you may not like it, public safety takes priority over personal safety in major incidents. Although, you may be thankful for that if it is your child being shot at in a school.

Dispatchers can be put in some hellacious positions at times...all they have to rely on for backup is SOP, which may dictate that non-emergency lines are left to ring or be put on hold if they are concurrent with large amounts of 911 calls.

Again, I will 911 in an emergency, local line for non-emergency. Be proud in taking some personal responsibility and following a system that was set up to help you in the best possible manner.

Gus said...

sadist, thank you for posting your "opinions." That's what they are.