Saturday, June 4, 2011

Domestic Disturbance

I woke up abruptly this morning by the sound of a male yelling and a female's hysterical screaming coming from a neighboring unit.

As I lay in bed, I could tell they were not speaking English. It sounded like the male was the aggressor and the female was the victim.

I got out of bed, still in my underwear, and went to the hallway to listen. I wanted to see if it was just a silly argument over who was going to the corner shop to buy milk, or something more serious. It sounded pretty serious, but as it had only just started I went back inside to see if it would calm down.

As I went to the bathroom, I heard continued yelling and a big bang come from the other unit. It's at that point I was concerned someone might be being hurt. So I went to the hallway and banged pretty hard on their door. The screaming continued.

I banged again and it sounded like the screaming and whimpering of the woman moved from the living room/kitchen to a bedroom. Still no answer at the door, and the screaming continued.

I banged at least two more times, before I decided this was probably out of my hands. I picked up the phone and dialed 112. Quick side note: 112 DOES NOT work from a landline! Only mobiles. Lesson learned. I dialed 000 from my house phone (instead of my mobile) because when you use a fixed line the call center already knows your address, return number, etc. You get through to the police much quicker this way.

I explained that I was reporting a domestic disturbance, that I'd heard at least 1 male and 1 female in distress in the unit, and that it sounded pretty serious. They took my details, and now begins the anxious wait. You can never tell if the cops will actually come out. We had a party that got gate-crashed a few years ago, and it took 4 or 5 calls to the police before we got any help, and by that stage we'd already dispersed the majority of the riffraff anyway! The cops simply drove past the house, and continued on their way by the time they turned up. So you never know if they'll come to help.

This time they explained that the next available car would be sent, and it certainly was. Within minutes (seemed like ages), an unmarked Holden Commodore Omega came hauling arse down Parramatta Road, lights and sirens screaming. The two detectives managed to get in to the building as someone was driving out of the basement. Another car turned up which I didn't see, and as I came to the front door of my unit to tell the cops which unit it was, 2 plain clothed detectives and 2 fully uniformed police were in the hallway.

I explained that I had been woken up fairly abruptly by the argument and that it must have been pretty loud, as our walls are quite thick (double brick, cement rendered).

The cops knocked on the door of the other unit, and announced themselves as Auburn police, as I wished them luck and closed my door.

I had various communications with one particular Constable, who took my details. He didn't seem to think anybody was hurt, and seemed frustrated that they were unable to get a solid understanding of what the argument was about. But seemed confident the woman was ok.

They all left about 30 minutes after it began.

My main concern was for the woman in the fight, she sounded like she was screaming for help. An unmistakable scream in any language. But, my secondary concern was, Did I do the right thing by calling? Did I just waste the time of 3 cars of police? I hear sirens screaming up and down Parramatta Road all day and all night, the cops must be flat out all the time. Should I have waited longer to see if the argument settled down? What happens if the woman was seriously hurt, and couldn't call for help and I did nothing?

Is it always safer just to call the cops and let them determine the seriousness of the situation? Or should I have tried for longer to talk to the occupants myself to see if everyone was OK?

Who knows what would have happened if I didn't call. Maybe nothing.

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