Contacting the Police

This experience caused me to discover that the now-canceled television program The District might not have been too unbelievable.


            My niece recently stayed with me for a short period of time after her graduation from the University of Virginia. She spent much of her time traveling back and forth from my house in Annapolis, Maryland to her boyfriend's apartment in the District of Columbia. He was to graduate from Georgetown University a week later than my niece, and the two of them were involved in a flurry of both post and pre graduation activities. One evening at about nine o'clock, she called to say that she was leaving Georgetown to come to my house, a drive of about forty-five minutes. When she hadn't arrived at my house by one o'clock in the morning, I, being the bachelor uncle not used to having a young adult in and out of the house at all hours, had become a nervous wreck. I called the Maryland State Police and was referred to several barracks through which I could get information on any accidents between Georgetown and Annapolis. Each of the troopers to whom I spoke was courteous and efficient and told me of no reported accidents. I then called the District of Columbia police and told my story. I was told by the lady on the phone that they couldn't tell me if there had been an accident unless I knew where the accident was. Upon hearing this totally illogical reply to my inquiry, I was so dumbfounded that I simply hung up.

            By this time, it was one-thirty, and I had to grit my teeth and call her parents in Vermont to inform them of the situation. I was picturing horrific scenes of family discord caused by my "losing" their daughter. Being experience parents of a young adult, they were not as panicked as I and gave me some reasonable suggestions as to my next move. A couple of minutes after I hung up, the phone rang, and it was my niece telling me she had been lost in Washington but had finally found her way back to her friend's and was staying there for the night. I promptly called my sister-in-law and brother to tell them that my niece had been "found." They took the whole affair in stride.

            As I tried to settle down for the night, I was helped in the easing of my tension by considering the amusing and ironic fact that this young woman who had just graduated with high honors from the University of Virginia - not an easy school - had difficulty traveling the relatively simple route from Georgetown to Annapolis - one that she had already driven several times before. I then began to think that maybe it was in the genes for even though I have no problem finding my way around Washington, I have become hopelessly lost is such places as Baltimore, Boston, and Charlottesville which, to others, are far less complicated than the District of Columbia. I guess DC is just one of those difficult places for my niece.

            The next day I began to consider the help I had received from the local law enforcement agencies and assumed that my situation must be repeated hundreds of times each year by other worried parents, relatives, and friends. I decided to write letters to the commander of the Maryland State Police and the chief of the District of Columbia police. In each letter, I briefly outlined my experience. In my letter to the Maryland State Police, I complemented the troopers with whom I spoke but suggested that there be some sort of statewide computer hookup that would enable a person to find out about any accidents in one call rather than having to call individual barracks. In about a month, I received an answer from David B. Mitchell of the Maryland State Police thanking me for my letter and stating that the state was, indeed, instituting a computer aided dispatch system. I never received any answer from the District of Columbia so am assuming that, to this day, if you need to find out if there has been an accident in our Nation's Capital, you need to know "where the accident is" to get information about it.

            One of new television programs that I enjoy is called The District in which Craig T. Nelson plays a mover and shaker who arrives to eliminate incompetency in the District of Columbia police department. After my experience with trying to find my niece, I tend to believe that that plot line is not too far-fetched.


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