January 6, 2019 5:15 pm

Surrey, B.C. woman in crisis reaches out to Surrey, U.K. police, gets help anyway

A Canadian woman having a mental health crisis mistakenly contacted the UK's Surrey Police instead of the Surrey RCMP. They made sure she got help anyway.

(AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
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Police in Surrey, UK were able to coordinate with their counterparts in British Columbia on Christmas Day to get help to a B.C. woman facing a mental health crisis.

The intercontinental effort was put in motion when a 23-year-old B.C. woman reached out to the British Surrey police by Facebook, mistaking it for the Surrey RCMP.

The woman was distraught and having suicidal thoughts, according to a media release from the Surrey Police.

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Contact call centre operator Ellie Benson began messaging with her to get information about her and to keep her talking.

By chance, Const. Antoinette Rowe, a Toronto police officer, was in the Surrey police department that day.

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She was visiting long-time friend and Surrey police operator Vanessa Reynolds, who happened to be working that day. Because Rowe was a police officer she was invited to observe with the police dispatch team.

Rowe reached out to her counterparts at the Vancouver Police Department, who connected her with Surrey RCMP dispatch.

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“It helped that Vanessa Reynolds’ friend (PC Rowe) was in the contact centre at the time and was able to use her contacts to get information and we were able to work it out in the end and we were delighted to hear from an officer in Canada that they had been found and were being given the help they needed,” said Benson in the release.

“It was a great Christmas coincidence and I’m delighted that it had a positive ending. It warmed the heart on Christmas morning.”

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Through Benson, who maintained contact with the distraught woman via Facebook, the group in the Surrey, U.K. dispatch centre were able to get enough information to the Surrey B.C. dispatch centre to identify her.

Surrey RCMP officers were dispatched, and were able to find the woman safe and sound.

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“Within a matter of minutes, P.C. Forest (RCMP) was online with the U.K. dispatcher, and using the Facebook page, sent a message to let us know the female had been located and taken to the local hospital,” said Rowe in the release.

Rowe credited the successful outcome to Benson’s efforts to keep the woman talking and calm.

Benson added that it’s not uncommon for her department to hear from Canadians.

“We get a number of messages from people who have mixed up Surrey, England with Surrey, Canada,” she said.

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