Service of Robocall Follow-ups

March 24th, 2016

Categories: Police, Technology


Our phone at the house is set to ring five times before the voicemail kicks in so on last Friday night we heard only half of a robocall that came in on Wednesday. 

It was a woman’s voice calling for the New York State Police. She shared a phone number we were to use if we saw a 68 year old Hispanic black man with an Afro coming from the direction of Stanford, NY. He was wearing jeans and a jacket. We missed any details, such as why we should report seeing him.

NY State PoliceI called a friend who lives nearby. She hadn’t heard about this. At the transfer station Saturday morning, the attendants said the man had been found–but they were wrong. 

My next stop was the library to check on the news. Bobby Welber in the Hudson Valley Post  had updated his previous story a few minutes before. He wrote that the search had moved from the Hudson Valley to NYC. “State Police have concluded their search in the Hudson Valley for the missing 68-year-old schizophrenic Dutchess County Man.” It was around 1 pm on March 19.

Welber went on: “Edward E. Lopez was last seen before 5:00 p.m. on March 14, 2016 at the Lakeview Chateau Community Residence located on W. Hunns Lake Road in the Town of Stanford. It is believed he left the residence on foot.” That is some five miles from our house. 

Neither Welber nor Nina Schutzman in her article in the Poughkeepsie Journal described what kind of facility he lived in nor whether he was dangerous. I tried finding out to no avail. The librarian on duty told me she lived in Stanford, but because she doesn’t have a landline, she never received the police robocall.

search for missing personThe upstate search party had pulled out all the stops in helping the NY State Police. Welber listed eight agencies from Forest Rangers to NYC and MTA Police in addition to nine volunteer search and rescue teams from around the tri-state area. 

Around 5:30 pm I stopped at the local NY State Police office. I asked a trooper for an update. He told me “it’s over,” that they’d found Lopez in NYC. I asked if there was going to be another robocall with this update. He looked at me as though I was stupid and replied, “Why? It was on the news.” [Clearly, I’d missed it. Was I alone?] I asked him what he knew about the facility from which Lopez had escaped. He said he didn’t know. 

Isn’t technology grand? The police can alert neighbors about a crisis with the flip of a switch but it doesn’t occur to anyone to flip it one more time to let folks know the crisis is over. In addition, nobody anticipated that part of a robocall message could be lost depending on the setting controlling when a voice message system kicks in. And what about alerting local residents who use mobile phones exclusively–aren’t they worth contacting? Have you come across similar situations in which people with access to technology haven’t thought through what they’re doing and how best to use it?

Police tape


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4 Responses to “Service of Robocall Follow-ups”

  1. hb Said:

    Writing about the wonders of technology, has anyone else stumbled across the new mandate from the State of New York which now requires all prescriptions to be filled electronically?

    Given that the internet is now totally insecure as to confidentiality, this means that if you catch syphilis cavorting with a prostitute, not just your wife/husband and children/parents, but also all your friends and neighbors are going know about it within weeks. Maybe the young just don’t care, but I do!

    Worse! Now doctors are relying upon computerized health records when making decisions. The two such records of mine that I have reviewed so far this year are full of serious errors, not because of my input, but because of transcription errors. Given the apparent illiteracy of many of the office staff employed by large medical practices and hospitals to do computer imputing, this is no surprise. You are likely to be much better off if you stick to doctors who are over 60 who know you and work in small offices, and have common sense enough to ignore what’s in the computer.

    Being a confirmed Luddite, I say give me back the good old days!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What an excellent example.

    I don’t care how many degrees you have or what a great typist you might be, inputting a line of numbers for hours is fraught with potential slipups. One typo and a patient might get a blood pressure medicine instead of a cholesterol-lowering one or a young child might get a dosage appropriate for a 200 pound man.

    And you are right about everyone knowing what’s wrong with you. Who wants that? I heard part of an interview on Charlie Rose with the son of Nora Ephron who died from leukemia, shocking many of her friends who didn’t know she was sick. She didn’t want anyone except family to know for many reasons. For one thing, she’d not have been entrusted with the movie projects she completed before she died. The movie’s insurance company wouldn’t have approved her for the key job of director. For another she didn’t want advice from others about cures they’d heard about or listen to the sad tones that accompany, “how are you feeling?”

    With the system you describe I see a doctor needing to hire yet another nonessential staffer to take care of this task. Otherwise, he’ll be busy inputting Rx’s to the computer instead of seeing the next patient or taking time with the current one to learn how he/she is really feeling.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    One must live in a tiny community in order to get personal alerts about lost souls wandering about the countryside. Otherwise, phones would ring non stop. That said, advising everyone a given search was over would have been the right thing to do. Guess they plum forgot!

  4. jmbyington Said:


    The police would appreciate your analysis. I don’t feel so kindly. I gave the suggestion to notify residents of the outcome to a policeman in the jurisdiction of Mr. Lost + Found so they didn’t forget, they didn’t bother. And I was still not able to ascertain what kind of facility he escaped from–he had the wits to get to NYC where the closest public transportation is more than 25 miles away. The word “escaped” didn’t calm me either.

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