Maryland – Dispatchers at Baltimore Shomrim got the surprise of their lives this week when they discovered that a female caller who contacted the neighborhood watch group to report that she was trapped in a locked storage facility was calling, not from anywhere in the Baltimore area, but from San Francisco, California.
“I got the call a little after midnight last night,” dispatcher Yitzy Schleifer told VIN News. “Like many calls we get, there were kids screaming and a lady crying and at first I couldn’t make out any of the words because she was pretty hysterical.”
Schleifer was able to determine that the caller , whose cell phone battery was almost completely depleted, had been accidentally locked in a storage facility after hours with her children, but as the caller spoke little English, it was difficult to determine where the facility was located.
“I tried to get her to calm down so that we could get the information before her phone died,” reported Schleifer. “I asked her what county she was in so that we could Google the facility and find her, but she didn’t know the name of the street. I finally started asked her what county she was in: Baltimore city, Baltimore County, Towson? I started naming them all but she didn’t understand. I finally asked her ‘Are you in Maryland?’ and that was when she told me she was in San Francisco.”
Several other Shomrim members joined Schleifer in his quest to determine the caller’s whereabouts, contacting the San Francisco Police Department and the corporate offices of the storage facility as well as attempting to find someone who a Spanish language translator to communicate with the caller.
“It was 12:15 by the time we spoke to the police department and I asked them to please let us know the outcome of the story,” said Schleifer. “I wanted to make sure they were taking the call seriously, given how bizarre the whole situation sounded, and if they couldn’t find her we were going to take other measures to help.”
Armed with the name of the storage facility but unsure of it’s exact location, San Francisco police dispatched officers to two Extra Space Storage facilities in the area.
“Officers responded and found a female with her children locked in her storage unit at Extra Space Storage at 2501 Cesar Chavez Street at 9:33 PM San Francisco time,” reported Officer Albie Esparza, a spokesman for the San Francisco Police Department. “The code for her unit, which was located on the bottom floor of the facility, was not working and our officers were able to free her and her children at 9:40 PM.”
San Francisco police have not released any details regarding the woman’s identity at this time.
The question of how the call came to Shomrim, almost 2,500 miles away, remains a mystery to both the Baltimore citizen’s patrol and the San Francisco police.
“It could be that she dialed the number wrong,” conjectured Schleifer. Baltimore’s area code is 410, while the San Francisco area code is 415.
According to Schleifer, the Baltimore citizen’s patrol frequently takes calls from people outside the Maryland area.
“We don’t care who the person is or where they are calling from,” reported Schleifer. “We get calls from out of town all the time and we assist. Of the 7300 calls we have gotten, this one was pretty unique, but then again, a lot of them are.”
“We have no idea how she got the number of the patrol in Baltimore but it is clearly a good number to have,” added Officer Esparza. “People keep their cell phone numbers when they move so you never know where a call is coming from no matter what the area code.”
Fellow Baltimore Shomrim members praised Schleifer for going the extra mile with last night’s caller.
“What are the odds that someone would accidentally call us and get a dispatcher who would put it all together like this?” wondered Nathan Willner, who is both a Shomrim volunteer as well as the group’s media representative. “We are in the midst of Chanukah, whose theme is how a small group of people can make a huge difference. Last night, one of our dispatchers made an incredible difference in the life of someone they will probably never meet. The fact that she dialed our number in such a random way was almost like she hit the lottery.”