Democracy Now! co-host and Daily News columnist Juan González describes his reporting that has exposed repeated crashes in New York City’s new 911 computer dispatch system. The glitches led to delays that appear to have already contributed to at least one death. “Last week, there was a young girl, Ariel Russo, a four-year-old girl who was hit and killed by an unlicensed teenage driver who was speeding away from police. I discovered, because the employees are so upset that they are leaking information, that there had been a four-minute delay in the ambulance even being notified by 911,” González says. “The city initially claimed that it was a human error — a dispatcher that did not see the call on the screen. But all the evidence I am getting is that this computer system is in such bad shape that it is actually losing transmissions, and this obviously has a major impact on health and safety in the city.”
AMY GOODMAN: Juan, before we begin with our segments, you had three front-page New York Daily News stories this week.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yes. Well, I’ve been following now for quite some time this—the New York City’s mayor’s office attempt to modernize the 911 system after major failings after the 2011 attacks—2001 attacks, I’m sorry. And what—the city, two weeks ago, began a new computer dispatch system for 911 to alert fire and EMS, and there’s been huge chaos, really, as a result. The system has been crashing repeatedly. 911 calls are being lost. Workers are frustrated and working double shifts to try to fix the system.
And then, last week, there was a young girl, Ariel Russo, four-year-old girl, who was hit and killed by a driver, an unlicensed teenage driver, who was speeding away from police. And I discovered, because the employees are so upset that they’re leaking information, that there had been—was a four-minute delay in the ambulance even being notified by 911, and so that the city initially has claimed that it was a human error, a dispatcher that did not see the call on the screen, but all the evidence I’m getting is that this computer system is in such bad shape that it’s actually losing transmissions.
And this obviously has a major impact on safety, health and safety in the city. And it is a—could be a huge blemish to the Bloomberg administration, because the mayor has now spent close to two—more than $2 billion in the last seven years—
AMY GOODMAN: Two billion?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Two billion dollars modernizing the 911 system. And so, this rollout two weeks ago of a new dispatch system was a key part of that overall program. The police department keeps saying, “No, these are just disgruntled workers who don’t like the new modernized system,” but the number of complaints that I’m getting, at all levels of fire, EMS and police, indicate that this is a real big problem that the City of New York has right now.
AMY GOODMAN: And a family is now suing as a result of getting this information.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this family is now suing for $40 million, because the department has admitted a delay. They’re just—they’re just denying that it was a system delay. They’re claiming it’s a human error delay. Either way, though, I think the city will be liable, to some degree, for the fact that the ambulance didn’t get there in time, and that the young—the little girl was still alive, according to police on the scene, who kept demanding an ambulance to come to the scene.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll certainly link to your stories at democracynow.org.