Baltimore’s Shomrim, a sort of volunteer neighborhood watch program for the primarily Jewish neighborhoods in Northwest Baltimore, usually responds to calls about minor neighborhood issues: broken windows, suspicious strangers, and the like. But this week, one Shomrim dispatcher had to deal with a situation that was far more frightening. “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,” dispatcher Yitzy Schlieifer told VIN News. Shortly afterward, it became clear that this call was quite different from the ones that Shomrim usually deals with.
The woman was hysterical, she barely spoke English, and her phone battery was about to die. Schleifer knew he had to figure out what was going on before her phone cut out, but he was having a hard time communicating. “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,” he said. “I finally started asking 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 [at a storage facility] in San Francisco.”
After the woman’s phone died, Shleifer contacted the San Francisco police, who sent officers to various storage facilities in the city. Eventually, they found and rescued the family, who had been accidentally locked inside a storage unit.
One mystery remains: How did a San Francisco woman in desperate need of help end up calling a neighborhood watch in Baltimore? Shleifer wonders if she typed 410 instead of 415, which is a San Francisco area code. Or maybe she was just lucky.
“What are the odds that someone would accidentally call us and get a dispatcher who would put it all together like this?” Shomrim volunteer Nathan Willner, told Vos Iz Neias. “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.”
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