RIVERDALE PARK, Md. - FOX 5 reporter Evan Lambert was filing a live report nearly three weeks ago when gunfire went off behind him, leading him to call 911 and discover confusion and delays in the Prince George's County 911 system.
The incident happened on Sept. 18 while Lambert was reporting at Fletcher's Field Community Park in Riverdale Park. No one was hurt, but officers did find shell casings in the area.
Lambert called 911 to report the shots fired and described to dispatchers where he thought the shots came from. The 911 call obtained by FOX 5 revealed it took dispatchers about three minutes to figure out which police agency was responsible for the call and to dispatch officers.
FOX 5 later learned at least one unit was in route during Lambert's call because of a previous caller minutes before. The police response to Lambert's call, first by Prince George's County police and then Riverdale Park Police, took about three minutes, which 911 officials label as a fast response.
The delay during the call revealed confusion caused by the many police jurisdictions within Prince George's County. There are more than 30 municipalities in the county with their own police department.
Since Lambert explained he was reporting outside the park, Maryland-National Capital Park Police would have been responsible, but since Lambert later clarified the shots came from behind him east of Kenilworth Avenue, dispatchers eventually determined Prince George's County police were responsible for responding. At one point, Lambert was transferred to Riverdale Park police because the boundaries are so close together in that area.
FOX 5 asked Prince George's County 911 officials if the system could be improved to reduce confusion and possible delays in police responses. A spokeswoman for the county's 911 system wrote in an email:
"Given all available information and taking into account the complexities of the jurisdictional boundaries, the PSC call taker and Riverdale Park dispatcher processed the calls in keeping with established processes and procedures."
Officials say callers can help them locate the proper department to send by giving an exact address, an intersection or a well-known landmark or business.
According to officials, a state commission is already working on new 911 technology known as NextGen 911, which would help overcome the jurisdictional boundary confusion by automatically sending a caller's GPS location to dispatch.