An accountant who said he witnessed a robbery this week claims he was put on hold when he called 911 in Nassau County to report the crime — about a month after a Massapequa family reported a similar experience.
Jim Breidenbach, 56, said he saw two men wearing ski masks and hoods enter a TD Bank branch on Merrick Road in Massapequa on Sunday at 12:36 p.m.
Breidenbach, who was visiting his mother in Seaford, said he rushed to his car to call 911 after seeing one man brandish a gun inside the bank.
“The message I kept getting was, ‘Please stay on the line, your call will be answered in the order received,’ ” Breidenbach said Wednesday. “I couldn’t believe it. I was flabbergasted.”
Breidenbach, who claims he got through to an operator after nearly four minutes — and after the robbers fled — is among those concerned about the state of the Nassau police department’s emergency call system, including the union representing 911 operators.
Acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said Thursday that a department investigation casts doubt on Breidenbach’s account.
“He didn’t wait four minutes,” Krumpter said. “Unequivocally, he waited about a minute and 20 seconds.”
Breidenbach called that “absolutely not true,” noting that his cellphone has a record of the length of the 911 call.
The commissioner defended the system’s performance, saying 96 percent of 911 calls are answered within 10 seconds, which he said is above the national average.
He said sometimes there will be slight delays with a heavy volume of calls, such as during Sunday’s bank robbery, when nine 911 operators received 28 calls in two to three minutes on the robbery and another emergency.
In that case, callers may have to wait longer than the 10 seconds, he said. But the robbery call had already been dispatched by the time Breidenbach reached an operator, Krumpter said.
But the Civil Service Employees Association said callers are increasingly being put on hold because of dangerously low staffing levels at the call center in Westbury. Union representatives are appealing to Nassau legislators to hold hearings on the issue.
“The only reason it’s getting a lot of attention now is because the public is complaining about it,” said Jerry Laricchiuta, CSEA president. “The union has been complaining about it for a couple of years.”
A New York City teacher from Massapequa, who said his wife was put on hold when she called Nov. 28 with a medical emergency, has also complained publicly.
Bill Easteadt said he sent letters Wednesday to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, state Sen. Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and Nassau Legis. James Kennedy (R-Massapequa) asking them to address the matter.
Easteadt said his wife, Diana, made the 911 call when their 17-month-old son, Billy, had a fever and was lethargic and listless. She got a recording telling her to hold for the next operator and hung up. She called again and hung up again after getting the same recording, her husband said.
He said a neighbor called the Massapequa Fire Department, which took the toddler to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip. The boy, who doctors said was having a seizure, was treated and released, Easteadt said.
“I don’t want any family to go through what we went through that day,” he said. “It was the scariest day of my life and my wife’s.”