ST. LOUIS COUNTY - Calls to 911 are often desperate pleas for help. Whether it's a medical emergency or a murder, the recordings of those calls are often used as evidence in court.
5 On Your Side has made a disturbing discovery: over 60,000 call recordings were destroyed or lost by the Central County 911 center.
The center handles a large portion of 911 calls for western St. Louis County and parts of Franklin County.
After having a medical emergency last September, James Young of St. John wanted to hear how emergency services and local police handled things. But when Young tried to get his 911 call, there was a big problem. He was told that not only his call, but thousands of others, had been lost by Central County Dispatch.
In fact, 5 On Your Side investigates has discovered more than 62,000 calls have been lost or destroyed while in the care of the 911 center. Calls dates range from June 2016 to January 2017.
So, what happened? Young says a center official claimed it was due to technical difficulties.
"He blamed it on maintenance issues, or server problems. Problems with the hardware and software," said Young.
Whatever happened, according to legal experts, the loss of those recordings could have an immense impact.
"It's a very big deal," said Dan Diemer, former St. Louis County Prosecutor and long time defense attorney.
Diemer says the loss of these calls could have major consequences for present and future criminal cases.
"You get the real raw emotion or the truth about what's happening at that moment," said Diemer.
But even more important?
"There may be someone who saw something, called that information in, and now it's gone," said Diemer.
5 On Your Side found that under the guidelines laid out by the Secretary of State, dispatch centers are supposed to keep 911 audio files for at least a year.
"If it seems there's some maleficence and evidence is therefore destroyed, there can be a presumption that the reason it was destroyed was because it would be beneficial to the other side," said Diemer.
Young questions If the problem might even be bigger.
"I'm not so sure there's maybe more missing calls over a longer period of time," said Young.
Tim Conroy, the executive director of central county dispatch declined to speak with us about this. But the attorney for Central County Dispatch tells 5 On Your Side that while they don't have the audio for the lost calls, they have other info and data associated with the calls.
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