ST. LOUIS — Victims who were robbed at gunpoint at a downtown convenience store waited about three hours to get through to a 911 dispatcher Tuesday.
The robbery happened at 10:25 a.m. at the James Henry Provisions store in the 400 block of N. 4th Street, but it was not reported to police until about 1:30 p.m., according to police sources familiar with the investigation.
The victims told police they could not get through to a 911 dispatcher for three hours as all of their calls went to voicemail, according to the sources.
The victims told police two men walked into the store toward the liquor section. One of the victims saw one of the men put some bottles of alcohol in his pants, so he walked toward the man and told him to return the bottles. The man then ran out of the store.
The victim then locked the door to the store, so the other man who was with the suspected thief couldn’t leave, and took a bottle away from him. That man then flourished a gun at the convenience store worker and told him to unlock the door or he would shoot him, victims told police.
The man then took a bottle of Gatorade and left.
That’s when the victims told police they began trying to call 911.
Wait times for 911 callers in St. Louis has been a chronic issue that has grown particularly worse in the past year.
Mayor Tishaura Jones said several efforts were underway to reduce wait times including a plan to merge the city’s three dispatching centers – police, fire and EMS – under the same roof by October.
That deadline came and went.
Firefighter’s union leaders say they have yet to see a plan to merge the mayor's public safety plan to merge dispatchers that addresses how pay disparities between them will be addressed.
Public Safety Director Dan Isom has blamed delays on the merger on the personnel division. Isom has also advised people who call 911 to remain on hold, because if they hang up and call back, they lose their place in line.
Earlier this week, firefighter union leaders along with police and carpenter’s union leaders released the results of a city-wide pay study conducted in 2020 that showed how underpaid city workers are compared to their counterparts in other communities – especially dispatchers.
Union leaders said they had to appeal to the Missouri Attorney General's office to get a copy of the study, because the city counselor's office would not fulfill their sunshine request for the 300-page document.