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Lake County E-911 Dispatcher George Dickerson

Lake County E-911 Director Mark Swiderski, left, gives an award to dispatcher George Dickerson, right. Dickerson helped save a woman recently who was hiding in her closet with two armed men in her house. 

CROWN POINT — Indiana's text-to-911 service and a Lake County E-911 dispatcher recently saved an Illinois woman from armed men who broke into her home.

Mark Swiderski, the E-911 director, honored George Dickerson on Thursday, citing his recent work in the woman's rescue as an example of how the public benefits from the county's multimillion-dollar consolidation and upgrade of public safety communications capabilities.

"I've heard a lot of people ask, why did we consolidate? Without this place being here and text-to-911 being a state mandate, I don't know what would have happened to that woman," he said at a recent meeting of police, fire and emergency medical personnel attending the Lake County Public Safety Communications Commission.

Swiderski made the emergency 9-1-1 call public last week to help educate the public about its benefits. 

Swiderski said he redacted any identifying information about the victim. Calumet City police didn't return calls seeking comment on the case.

Swiderski said the woman placed a 9-1-1 call Sept. 12 when two armed men entered her house. He said cloud-cover or some other atmospheric effect deflected her call from her city police dispatch center to one of Lake County's ring of radio communication towers. "It's only by the grace of God it came to us," he said.

Dickerson opened the conversation with, "Lake County 9-1-1. What is your emergency?" A frightened woman's voice that was barely audible is heard on the other end.

Dickerson asked, "Hello. Do you need some help? Where are you at? I've got to get your street name."

After a pause, Dickerson said, "OK. This is what I'm going to do. I'm going to send you a text. Would it be better if we text?"

Swiderski said this was followed by a clicking noise of the woman typing a text message while she was hiding in her closet. Dickerson said, "She was afraid if she said anything louder, they would find out where she was at in the house."

She texted her street address and that she was scared.

Dickerson called Calumet City police to report her emergency. He also kept her on the line so she could overhear him talking to the Calumet City dispatcher who questioned him about what was happening.

Dickerson told a Calumet City dispatcher on the recording, "She said they have guns. She is begging and pleading for help."

Swiderski said Dickerson kept her on her phone during the ordeal until Calumet City police arrived and he could instruct her how to leave her house in safety. "His quick thinking saved this woman's life," Swiderski said.

All Lake County police, fire and emergency medical dispatchers have had the text-to-911 service since early last year under a statewide mandate to help those who have a speech impediment or, as in this case, cannot risk being overheard talking to police.

Swiderski said Lake E-911 has received 3,317 texts from a total of more than 235,000 911 calls this year so far.


Lake County Reporter

Bill has reported in Lake County since 1972 after graduating from Indiana University. He has worked for The Times since 1997, covering the courts and local government during much of his tenure. Born and raised in New Albany, Ind., he is a native Hoosier.