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Police: Network Outage Delayed Reporting Man as Missing

Posted April 23, 2008
Updated April 24, 2008

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— The Durham Police Department said Wednesday that a computer network outage kept information about a missing Hillsborough man from getting to the National Crime Information Center, a prerequisite for issuing a Silver Alert through the state's system.

In a response to media inquiries, the department said it launched an internal investigation into the actions of the officers involved in reporting 73-year-old Jasper Villines as a missing person.

The report said that prior to reaching the conclusion that Villines qualified for a Silver Alert, Durham police officers learned that he had died.

Villines was helping his wife return a rental car to Raleigh-Durham International Airport at about 6 p.m. Saturday when he took a wrong turn off the Durham Freeway and became lost, relatives said. He had recently been diagnosed with dementia, they said.

He was walking east in the westbound lane of N.C. Highway 98 at about 12:45 a.m. Sunday when he was hit by a car at the intersection with Sherron Road and was killed, authorities said. His vehicle was found a short distance away.

Villines' wife and daughter said they asked Durham police to put out an alert for him, but their requests were ignored. At about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, police put out a message to all officers about Villines with a description of him and his vehicle.

Family members said they were told that Villines was not old enough for a Silver Alert.

The state's Silver Alert program, which started in December, is designed to more quickly locate adults with mental impairments like Alzheimer's disease. Bulletins are issued to law enforcement agencies and media statewide. Alerts have been issued recently for people much younger than Villines.

A state Highway Patrol trooper told the family that he stopped Villines at about 10:30 p.m. Saturday because he was driving erratically, but he let him go because there was no alert for law enforcement to be on the lookout for the man.

That occurred about 30 minutes before the family called 911 to report him missing.

According to a timeline of events prepared by the department, officers were attempting to process the various forms needed to enter Villines into NCIC when a network outage occurred.

The outage, around midnight, occurred at Durham Police Headquarters and the Durham 911 Center, which affects access to the dispatch computer, the Internet and DCI. The DCI is where NCIC information is entered into the system.

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  • ridgerunner Apr 24, 2008

    Why did it take so long for the computer failure to come out. First he did not qualify, then other excuses. DPD is just playing the old CYA game.

  • Shaking My Head In Amusement Apr 24, 2008

    why did the computer system go out? Was their copper cable stolen like Verizon's was in East Durham recently?

    The system went out due to a strong storm that rolled through Durham.Off and on all night we had heavy rain,thunder,lightening and winds.911 didn't fail to answer calls and dispatch units; I had a wet uniform from answering emergency calls. They made an effort to help locate this man the best they could.They also had the "regular" traffic in Durham that night,too.(Armed robberies,house break ins, disturbance with weapons,etc.) Now let me ask you this, if you were that woman who was home alone and heard someone break into your window would you want the police to come to your aid or would you rather them make you wait while they looked for a missing person? If you were that man being threatened with a gun over money would you want police to come to you or say we'll be there soon we're looking for a missing person?They do the best they can, with the shortage they have.

  • oldschooltarheel Apr 24, 2008

    why did the computer system go out? Was their copper cable stolen like Verizon's was in East Durham recently?

  • Common Sense Man Apr 24, 2008

    "Regardless if teh family should or shouldn't have let him take the car, the police are here to serve the public and they failed this family completely. I can understand a network outage, but when working with technology this should always be expected and an alternate method in place for these situations!!"

    Yes, they should have issued a silver alert, but people act like they didn't do anything. They entered him into NCIC as missing and they broadcast a "BOLO."

  • jallen2 Apr 24, 2008

    Regardless if teh family should or shouldn't have let him take the car, the police are here to serve the public and they failed this family completely. I can understand a network outage, but when working with technology this should always be expected and an alternate method in place for these situations!!

    My sincere sympathies go out to the family!

  • commonsensical Apr 24, 2008

    Why must everyone try to shift the blame from themselves to the authorities? The original article says that the family knew this man had dementia and should not be driving, but they allowed him to do so after he insisted. No different than allowing someone to drive home when everyone knows they've been drinking. People, stop trying to blame someone else for your own mistakes.

  • Deep Thought Apr 24, 2008

    3 different reasons from DPD, the latest of which is to blame technology. HA!!!!

    There is this little radio frequency called Inter-City that is just what it says. If Durham wants to pass info to the Highway Patrol Dispatch center or any other dispatch center on Inter-City (and it used to be everybody) then all Durham has to do is select the frequency, key the mike and talk.

    Guess we're lucky it wasn't a kidnapping, armed robbery suspect or a murder suspect that might go outside the DPD radio BOLO range.

    BTW, everything that is said on the phones or radio (PD, Fire or EMS) is taped and there is a mandatory retention time.

  • Common Sense Man Apr 24, 2008

    "DPD knows that what they did was wrong according to their normal operating procedures."

    I seriously doubt they had "normal operating procedures" in place for silver alerts, as it is relatively new. I bet they will after this though.

  • Common Sense Man Apr 24, 2008

    "More importantly, why was he not able to establish a non-confrontational atmosphere so that the Alzheimer's patient could ask for help? Why was he viewed as a potential criminal rather than as a citizen in need of assistance?"

    How do you know about the atmosphere of the traffic stop? How do you know that he was viewed as a potential criminal?

  • piperchuck Apr 24, 2008

    "It's making DPD look worse and worse by continuing to offer different reasons to why the response time was delayed."

    Yup, they should just stay quiet. That way people could say the DPD doesn't care, isn't doing anything, etc. They're looking into what they could do to improve. It's pathetic that people want to hang them out to dry when they aren't perfect.

    To all those complaining about the police and emergency responders, the next time your city/county considers a tax increase so they can improve the pay and tools they have to work with, consider your comments here. They do what they can with the limited resources they're forced to work with. Want an improved system? Be willing to spend the $ to make it happen.

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