911 Emergency Services and Lo-Jack Tracking Suffer from Lack of State Co-Operation

Calling the emergency services on 911 is a fairly rare occurrence in most people’s lives.

Official statistics show that the average person in the United States will personally call the 911 system once every 2.7 years. Unfortunately, I have been lucky enough to call it a few times this year. The first time was for a mugging I witnessed in New York City – right in the middle of Times Square – a street-person (The nice term for a pan-handler) was attacked by two African American males. I don’t think that they were after any money, it was more of a joke for them, but it felt very out-of-place with the new and clean Times Square where it is really very safe nowadays. The second time I called 911, was when I witnessed a traffic accident in Jersey City which is in New Jersey across the Hudson River from Manhattan. I understand some injuries were sustained in the accident and I did my duty by calling 911 on my cell phone.
You would think that I could help by calling 911, but what I discovered both shocked and angered me.

When you place a cell phone call from a number of towns in New Jersey, your call may go through a cell phone tower in New York City (Which have a strong signal and plentiful I understand)
So, when you place a 911 call thru to the emergency services, it is the New York 911 operator who answers.

Once the 911 operator understands that the location you are calling from is in New Jersey, they say “Sorry, I cannot help you”
Now understand this, they didn’t say “Let me transfer you” or anything that will actually help the vehicle which is now on fire – I asked if I can get to a NJ 911 operator which they replied “We cannot help you, we cannot transfer” They added “You must either use a landline that is in New Jersey to call 911 or call the local police station in your area – We do not have that number, we are in New York”.

I found a landline in a store, only to find that someone had already called 911 – but precious minutes would have been lost if they hadn’t.
Apparently this happens all the time and never gets reported, it’s called “911 State Bleed Over” and the states of New Jersey and New York know about it, but have failed to do anything about it.The 911 emergency system isn’t the only system that suffers from this lack of state co-operation.
Lo-Jack, the oft quoted “Stolen Vehicle Recovery Network” suffers from a similar problem.
It was only when my wife had her car accidentally towed – we didn’t know it was towed at the time – It just disappeared one day from her parking space. We went to the police station and reported her car stolen and then expected the amazing system of Lo-Jack to locate her car and have it returned – a bit like the marketing blurb on their TV commercial.
We discovered It didn’t work quite like that.
The desk Sergeant tells us that Lo-Jack is automatically activated when they add the vehicle to their central database, so there is nothing special we have to do. This is confirmed by the Lo jack operator who we called up to confirm.
The desk sergeant then informs us that lo-jack works when our stolen car travels past a police cruiser with the Lo Jack scanner installed. Except our, town and most of the towns on the Gold Coast (That’s all the towns on the Jersey side of the Hudson River) do not have Lo-Jack scanners because of the high number of positives that they receive from New York City, which is out of their jurisdiction, and they don’t have time to chase ghosts – signals that come in strong, but then end up being across the water.
So how does Lo-Jack find our car we asked. “It doesn’t” he replied. “If the car is driven into a town that use Lo-Jack then you might get lucky, but generally around here Lo-Jack doesn’t find the car” he added.
Not much point in buying Lo-Jack I mused, to which he grinned, then agreed.
So, do the car thieves know which police forces don’t use Lo-Jack ? “The smart ones do” he replied. 

Robert Shaw

Specializing in tech startups, Mr Shaw has shown a talent for helping first round funded companies get their head around what they are supposed to be doing to keep their investors happy. A graduate of Penn State and then Tulane University A.B. Freeman School of Business, Mr Shaw likes to work in new and developing technology areas. Mr Shaw also likes walks on the beach and sand in his hair, whoops that is his dating profile.