11 Investigates: Pittsburgh police took nearly 2 hours to respond to street robbery

11 Investigates has uncovered a delayed police response to a frightening crime.

Chief Investigative Reporter Rick Earle discovered that it took Pittsburgh police officers nearly two hours to respond to a street robbery that happened in the middle of the day on the South Side.

After Earle started asking questions, police launched a review of the response.

The robbery happened during a shift change and there were apparently no officers to send.

All of them were tied up.

Sources told Earle this is all connected to staffing issues and confusion over the way police are supposed to respond to certain calls.

With the declining number of officers, Chief Larry Scirotto has said he wants officers to respond only to in-progress emergencies.

All other calls are supposed to be sent to the new enhanced Telephone Reporting Unit.

Sources told Earle this street robbery should have qualified as an in-progress call, but police did not respond immediately, according to dispatch logs reviewed by Earle.

“She came in and said she had been robbed, " said Mike Kirsch, who works at Brunner’s Automotive Repair Shop on the South Side.

The woman showed up here at Brunner’s Garage and told them that a man had just stolen her purse with her wallet and cell phone. He swiped it right out of her hands.

Earle said it happened at the intersection of Roland and South 17th Street, just a block off of Carson Street on the South Side.

The man didn’t say a word, grabbed the purse and took off running towards Brunner’s.

Workers at Brunner’s never saw him.

The woman gave chase, but the suspect got away.

She stopped and Brunner’s to use a phone to call 911 and report it.

She waited and waited and waited for police.

Kirsch: She was here all afternoon.

Earle: Was she waiting for police?

Kirsch: They said they were going to send somebody.

Earle: Did they ever send somebody?

Kirsch: No, no, they never sent anybody.

About one hour and 15 minutes after the robbery, Kirsch said an officer finally called the garage looking for the victim.

“They called here at 5:30 looking for her. I said she went home. She has no telephone, but I gave them her address and they said they would get in touch with her,” said Kirsch.

According to dispatch logs obtained by 11 Investigates, the call came in at 4:14 in the afternoon.

It was right in the middle of shift change and there were no officers available. Apparently, all of the officers were tied up.

At 4:42 p.m., a car was dispatched but the officer who was dispatched decided to refer the call to the Telephone Reporting Unit.

At 5:21 p.m., more than an hour after the robbery, the Telephone Reporting Unit sent it back to the Zone Three station in Allentown and said an officer must respond in person to take a report.

An officer was dispatched again at 5:32 p.m., and arrived at the woman’s home on the South Side at 5:50 p.m., but no one answered the door.

The woman eventually showed up at the police station that night to file a police report.

“It’s sad that we have less police and a chief and the mayor don’t want to provide more police and we have is a purse snatcher, a lady not being taken care of,” said Rich Cupka, a long-time restaurant owner on the South Side.

Cupka has been a frequent critic of the administration’s response to crime on the South Side and the declining number of police officers.

The city is budgeted for 850 officers but with retirements and resignations, it’s around 750 now.

“When you have less police, they (criminals) know you’re not coming so they are going to do whatever they want,” Cupka told Earle.

11 Investigates asked Pittsburgh Police for a response to this call.

“The Zone 3 commander is aware of the incident and the officer response time. He has been in contact with Allegheny County EOC (Emergency Operations Center) to ensure that police are being dispatched to in-progress calls like this in a timely fashion with the appropriate level of urgency. The matter is being reviewed thoroughly,” said Cara Cruz, a police spokesperson.

“I’ve never seen anything like this at least during the day,” said Kirsch.

Back at the repair shop on the South Side, those who work here and came to the aid of the victim said they’re glad she wasn’t hurt.

They also said she sent them bagels and a Thank You note for helping her out.

“Brunner’s garage people you’re the best, thanks for everything,” Kirsch said, reading the note from the victim.

Earle learned that the woman’s purse was found a couple blocks away along with her wallet and cell phone, but the cash was gone.

Police said they have yet to identify the suspect.

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