Miami Beach

Emergency dispatch error leads to long response time for Miami Beach burglary call

Former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke
Former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke

Former Miami Beach mayoral candidate Steve Berke was on his way home Tuesday night when his girlfriend, who was home alone, heard a noise in their South Beach home.

When Briley Hale went upstairs to the bedroom, she found a man in their closet with Berke’s laptop bag around his shoulder.

“Drop that bag, what are you doing?” she screamed. The man ran out of the room with the computer, downstairs and out of the house. She phoned Berke just after 9:55 p.m. He called 911 at 10:10 p.m., when he arrived at his house in the 1700 block of Michigan Avenue.

Berke called a nearby friend to come over and stay with his girlfriend while he and his father drove around looking for the suspect. About 20 minutes later, Berke texted his friend. The cops still hadn’t shown up.

Irate, Berke called 911 a second time. Police did not arrive for another 15 minutes — about 35 minutes after the first call. And after they showed up, Berke realized the cops had not been given proper information on the call.

“Apparently dispatch miscommunicated with the police twice,” he said on Thursday.

A failure in Miami Beach’s emergency management department to properly communicate the urgency of the call to police led to the slow response time.

Berke, a local filmmaker, took to Facebook to recount the ordeal earlier this week. Commissioner Michael Grieco saw the post and reached out to the police.

“After looking into the matter, it is clear there was a breakdown at the dispatch level,” Grieco told the Miami Herald on Wednesday. “And that breakdown is what caused the delay in response time. Miami Beach police is not at fault.”

Charles Tear, the city’s emergency manager, said he and City Manager Jimmy Morales are investigating the incident, and he corroborated Grieco’s comment.

“I’m looking at the facts, and as soon as I have appropriate information from the investigation, which is underway, and I know exactly what the facts are, we can decide on some corrective action.”

In Miami Beach, the office of emergency management oversees the Public Safety Communications Unit, which handles 911 calls and is supposed to relay information to police and fire authorities.

In the Berke case, it appears there is confusion over the level of urgency that was communicated to police on the call.

“Thank God that no one was hurt as a result of this error,” Grieco said. “And I can assure everyone that this is going to be rectified, and not just regarding this situation. But it’s going to be rectified going forward.”

Last year, the city took over management of the 911 call center from the police after images of dispatch supervisors asleep on the job were circulated in the news — a controversy that also revealed staffing problems at the center.

Beach police say they are pursuing viable leads. Berke said he and his girlfriend were shocked with the incident, and she doesn’t feel safe alone in their home anymore.

“It’s just incredibly disappointing,” he said, adding that he and his girlfriend just recently moved into their home. “I can’t call the police in an emergency situation and get a response.”

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