By Meg Olson
Concerns about limited law enforcement response in Point Roberts were heightened after an altercation at the Reef was followed by one of the parties apparently attempting to back over the other, who wound up going through the car’s back windshield.
The victim’s sister called 911, and no one came, so a friend transported him to Delta Hospital for treatment.
Whatcom County dispatch has no record of the March 28 911 call made using an Alberta cell phone, but dispatchers on the other side of the border do.
Jody Robertson, corporate communications director for the E-Comm 911 center in British Columbia, said they have a record of one call from the Alberta number and the caller was provided with a direct number to contact What-Comm, where Whatcom County 911 calls are handled. The caller ended the call and did not call What-Comm, according to their records. Robertson also said call center employees do have the ability to transfer calls once they know from what agency and in what area the caller needs a response.
Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) deputy Jason Loreen was in Point Roberts on the night of the incident but didn’t learn about it until the following day, when the victim flagged him down to make a report.
“The public needs to know their Canadian phones are sending these calls to Canada,” he said.
His first recommendation was to use a landline if possible, as it makes sure the call goes to the right place and gives the operator more information. If that isn’t possible, it’s critical to tell the operator where you are and to ask to be transferred to the right dispatch center.
The What-Comm administration line directs, “If you are calling from outside the area and need emergency assistance call 360/676-6911.”
WCSO undersheriff Jeff Parks said the March 28 incident was under investigation, and a crime scene investigator and detective were on the Point gathering evidence on March 30. “They found the vehicle and processed it,” he said. “They certainly got what they needed from it.“ WCSO is now in the process of trying to find the suspected assailant.
Parks acknowledged that, while in this case the 911 call went to the wrong place, the sheriff’s department have not immediately responded to other 911 calls, including concerns about a drunk driver on Gulf Road.
With WCSO short a dozen deputies due to a combination of leave and attrition, Parks said, “It depends on what is going on and what our coverage is like.” With only one resident deputy in Point Roberts at this time, if he isn’t on the Point, law enforcement will respond from the county if it is deemed necessary. Parks said the patrol sergeant in Bellingham would evaluate the call to see if the resident deputy could follow it up when he returns. “We are a limited resource,” he said. “Triage is based on whatever activity is going on in the county.”
He added they “always have and always will” respond to an incident in progress.
WCSO is in the process of organizing the move to Point Roberts for the second deputy they are committed to providing. Parks said he expects Tom McCarthy, who served on the Point earlier in his career, to move up in May.