Tale of two cities: Email goes to Verona, New Jersey, instead of Verona, Italy - but helps save suicidal Chinese student
The path of a wrongly directed email, intended for police in Verona, Italy, but instead sent to Verona, New Jersey, has ended with the life of a suicidal Chinese student being saved.
The initial email on April 14 came from another Chinese student in Britain. Worried about the wellbeing of the other student at the Verona Academy of Fine Arts in Italy, the student fired off an email to police.
But a geography blunder meant that it ended up not with Italian authorities, but with Mitchell Stern, police chief in Verona, New Jersey.
After trying to find contact information for the Italian police department of the same name and the Italian embassy, he eventually got in touch with Interpol, the network of police forces around the world. Interpol forwarded it to the police in Italy.
When Verona police finally arrived at the arts student’s apartment, they found her with her wrists slit and with a half-empty bottle of antidepressants, the Italian Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The student had told her UK-based friend in an online chat that she was going to harm herself, Stern said.
“It really makes you step back and think you can help to save a life half a world away,” Stern said.
Stern said the 30-member Verona, New Jersey, police department occasionally gets emails looking for lost luggage or reporting thefts in Verona, Italy - the city best known as the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - but nothing at the same magnitude as last Thursday’s.
Stern said he wouldn’t have shared the story, but Italian authorities saw it as an opportunity to show how police work together.