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CALL 6: When seconds count, do the emergency call boxes the White River Trail actually work?

Posted at 5:22 AM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 14:01:24-04

INDIANAPOLIS – You've likely seen those blue emergency call boxes along the White River Trail, but it's less likely you've ever had to use them. 

They're supposed to be a lifeline that can directly connect you to 911 if you have an emergency, but Call 6 Investigates learned that many of those emergency call boxes don't even work. 

When we first started digging, the city said they didn't own the call boxes. But Call 6's Paris Lewbel was able to get numerous 911 calls and one prank call from one of the emergency call boxes along the White River Trail while working a different investigation. 

The prank call was from a young child reporting her friend was in the water. We heard as 911 dispatchers tried to figure out exactly from where the call came. They determined it was from one of the call boxes along the trail after the number showed up at the 911 center registered to the “City of Indianapolis.”

We went back to the city armed with that information.

They dug through their records and eventually determined they owned nine of the 13 emergency call boxes between New York Street to 10th Street.

"We aren't exactly sure of the origin of them,” said Indy Park’s Chief Communication Officer Ronnetta Spalding. “We know they've been here for a while, at least since the early 2000's."

But what about the four remaining call boxes along the trail? 

Indy Parks said they couldn’t determine who owned them, but they will now be taking them on. 

"Indy parks is going to maintain those from here on out,” Spalding said.

It wasn’t until we started asking questions that we learned the problems were much bigger than who owned them - eight of the 13 call boxes don't even work.

Call 6 Investigates went out with Indy Parks and IMPD to get our own count and tested the five working boxes. Through all of those boxes, you could connect with 911 dispatchers. 

But after that test, “Out of Service” labels now cover the emergency buttons.

Indy Parks said fixing the boxes isn't cheap, and because they haven't been upgraded it may not be easy, either. 

"They are the original call boxes, so they have not been upgraded, and they are costly to repair, as well as finding folks that know the technology,” Spalding said. “But we do have a contractor that we are working with."

Even so, Indy Parks says fixing the boxes is a top priority. They expect the repairs to cost about $2,000 and say the work will be done as soon as possible.

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