Employees at a La Jolla business say they were on hold for 10 minutes when they called to report a robbery in progress last week.
A San Diego Police Department spokesman said there were never any 10 minute holds on any 911 calls made about the incident, and there were no major issues with dispatch.
"The victim called 911 twice during this incident," said San Diego Police Department Lt. Scott Wahl. "The first time they held for 40 seconds and they hung up. The second time they got through in 17 seconds. This was on our 911 line. Officers were then immediately dispatched."
Wahl did not immediately respond to a follow-up question about the exact time of the 911 calls or the time officers were dispatched to the scene, but he stressed there were no issues with dispatch on the call.
A man who owns a business nearby tells NBC 7 they noticed the suspect even before the robbery took place and tried to get a hold of police.
Lt. Scott Wahl said the business never called 911 during the incident, but instead called the non-emergency line to report a possible suspicious person. At the time of that first call, no robbery had taken place.
Buisnessman Adam Barno says if they had been able to get through to Dispatch, the suspect may have been stopped.
“I think he was able to take his sweet time and scope, and do all these things,” Barno said. “Even if somebody does call on him, they know they have enough time to get away with it.”
Wahl said Barno called the non-emergency line at about 8:50 p.m. and waited 4 minutes and 13 seconds. At the time, no armed robbery had occured yet. Wahl said Barno was reporting a possible "caser" in the area, or a person possibly conducting surveillance on nearby businesses to find an opportunity to potentially commit a crime.
“Why would I be calling that number? Obviously something is happening and I need assistance. Police, or whatever it is, medical. It's an emergency. That's the only reason we’re gonna call,” said Barno.
On May 9th, Chedi Thai Bistro restaurant on Pearl Street and Mabel Bell Lane in La Jolla was robbed at gunpoint around 9 p.m. The suspect, described to be in his 20s, took off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
After the robbery, Barno tried calling police again but on the non-emergency line, SDPD Lt. Wahl confirmed.
"Mr. Barno called our non-emergency line a second time at (9:10 p.m.) 21:10:16, waited 5 minutes and 22 seconds. 21:15:38 (9:15 p.m.) got through and reported a robbery to a neighboring business and that he had possible video," Wahl said via a written statement.
Another witness told NBC 7, he had also called 911 to report the robbery but he was put on hold by Dispatch.
Barno tells NBC 7, that wasn’t the first time he has been unable to get through to police, and said he doesn't feel it should matter what line is called when citizens are trying to get ahold of police.
Wahl said calling 911 to a crime in progress will result in police being immediately dispatched to the scene versus the non-emergency line which will be prioritized along with all the other calls and incidents working throughout the city.
SDPD can sometimes receive more than 200 calls to 911 per hour.
In April 2016, the longest wait time for a 911 caller was 7 minutes and 6 seconds.
State mandates require police departments to try to answer 911 calls within 10 seconds at least 90 percent of the time. In April 2016, SDPD answered within the 10 second goal only 67 percent of the time.
Wall said hang-up calls compound 911 wait times, and accidental calls make up nearly an approximate third of the total call volume.
"Every police officer, firefighter, paramedic, lifeguard, we all want to get to emergency situations as quickly as we possibly can," Wahl said. "When you call 911, the best thing you can do is stay on the line and resist that natural tendency that we all have — to hang up when you don’t get through right away."
A surveillance video outside of Barno’s liquor store captured a video of a man that matched the suspect description police gave for the May 9th robbery. The suspect is described be in his 20s, 5-feet, 8-inches tall. He was described as wearing a gray long sleep shirt, brown shorts, and white shoes.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has pledge approximately $652,000 to improve the issue of delays with 911 calls.
His office says they cannot disclose how exactly the funds will be spent to fix the issue, but that Faulconer recommends they will be spent on retention and recruitment in the dispatch center.
Editor's Note: NBC 7 reached out to SDPD Friday, and Lt. Scott Wahl responded Saturday with the following details regarding the emergency calls during the robbery in progress:
Mr. Barno never called 911 during this incident. He called our non-emergency line.
There was no 10 minute wait time or delay with dispatch for anyone on this call.
Mr. Barno called our non-emergency number at 20:50:33, waited 4 minutes and 13 seconds. 20:54:46 he got through and reported a possible caser in the area casing businesses. A caser call was then formatted.
Mr. Barno called our non-emergency line a second time at 21:10:16, waited 5 minutes and 22 seconds. 21:15:38 got through and reported a robbery to a neighboring business and that he had possible video.
The victim called 911 twice during this incident. The first time they held for 40 seconds and they hung up. The second time they got through in 17 seconds. This was on our 911 line.
Officers were then immediately dispatched.