'TIS THE SEASON to be jolly, and to admit folly.
On Nov. 29, when I put a spotlight on Verizon in the case of Edna, the little brown dog tortured and held for ransom, I did so based on information supplied to me by Verizon, the Philadelphia Police Department and Edna's owner, Bill Whiting.
The information turned out to be not complete. When you make a mistake, you man up.
While I still believe Verizon could have done more, faster and cheaper, I now believe police bureaucracy and due process contributed to the delay.
I can't get to the bottom of it as neither side wants to explain fully, citing a fear of compromising methods of investigation or privacy concerns.
The background: Edna got loose on Oct. 31, with the door opening and closing a lot for trick-or-treaters. The next day a distraught Whiting put up 1,500 fliers begging for her return and promising a $500 reward.
Just before midnight on Nov. 10, he got a call from two savages, who said they were 9- and 16-year-old boys who had his dog and demanded $600. Over the phone, Whiting heard one of the boys hurting Edna to make her scream before hanging up.
Whiting, 57, immediately reported what happened to police. The two monsters called back at 3 a.m. on Nov. 11 to say they had killed Edna.
In my column, I reported that police had gotten a search warrant and faxed it to Verizon on Nov. 16. I neglected to notice the delay between when the report was taken by police and when a search warrant was faxed to Verizon.
It took five days.
It needs to be said that this issue is bigger than a tortured, dead dog. The system that failed poor Edna could just as easily fail an endangered person.
Why the five-day delay in getting the search warrant?
Detectives work on more than one case at a time, I was told, and it takes time to prepare the search warrant, which must be reviewed by the D.A.'s office.
A faster, more urgent procedure is needed.
When Verizon got the warrant on Friday, Nov. 16, it wasn't marked "time-sensitive," which would have brought a faster response, Verizon says. Cops won't say so openly, but unofficially I was told, "Do they think we're baking cookies here?"
Police would not talk with me about their policy on when a request is called "time-sensitive." So now I wonder if they have a policy, is it clear, was it ignored, what? Stonewalling is an incubator that breeds questions.
Verizon got back to the cops on Tuesday, Nov. 20, "to clarify the specific request," Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski told me, and to request a $150 payment.
A Verizon letter to the editor on Dec. 4 said the payment was legal and doesn't cover true expenses, which I was unable to get explained by Verizon, other than a statement that "to access those records requires employee resources and computer time."
Maybe I have too much faith in technology, maybe I watch too much CSI, but I keep thinking Verizon can do it faster and cheaper. With revenues of $88 billion last year, I think Verizon can waive the fee as a public service.
The payment request got passed to police finance on the 20th and was approved Friday Nov. 23.
Another three days lost.
Police spokesman Lt. Frank Vanore told me federal agents have credit cards to charge such expense, which city police don't have. Giving detectives credit cards could at least save a few precious days.
Among Verizon, the cops and the D.A., the delay is intolerable.
I can't fix the system. I can't even say how to fix the system. All I can do is ask that they work together to do something before a human life is lost. *
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