Enough with the prank calls!
The police are again making an impassioned plea to Jamaicans to desist from wasting the resources of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) by sending them on wild-goose chases with prank calls to the 119 emergency number or calling for non-emergency situations.
“If you have kids and grandkids and kids that you are guardians for, please instruct them not to call 119 as a prank, especially when school is out,” said Corporal Eton Bradford of the police Emergency Communications Centre.
Bradford, along with dispatcher at the centre Shauna-Kae Malcolm, and call centre manager Tania Ricketts, were explaining the importance of the operations of this police branch to patrons in attendance at the JCF’s inaugural technology expo at the National Arena on Thursday.
Malcolm said that at times when these child pranksters call, some of whom are verbally abusive, “there will be adults in the background telling children what to say to us”.
She said sometimes the pranksters call and it will sound like a legitimate emergency, but when a police unit is dispatched, it is then realised that it was a prank call.
Malcolm noted that police personnel are highly trained to differentiate between real emergencies and pranks, but there are times, depending on what the emergency is, “we’re going to have to dispatch our units to the location”.
“It’s experience, and based on the questions we ask. We have to interview them and we have to try to do that within two minutes. We have to interview them thoroughly and then we will determine whether it’s actually an emergency, but sometimes we can’t take it for granted,” she said.
Malcolm noted as well that people will call the 119 emergency line “for every single thing, even to call the police to fix the pipe, to take the cat out the tree”.
“I remember one time we got a call from a female caller who was screaming hysterically and when the police went there and gave us an update, it was a lizard in her house.”
She told the officers that she was afraid of the lizards so she needed the police’s assistance.
Ricketts pointed out that prank calls and non-emergency calls tie up the lines and prevent or delay persons with real emergencies getting the help needed.
She said when calls are made to 119, they are placed in a cue, so it is “first call, first serve”, pointing out that if there are several prank calls but there is actually an emergency, the prank calls have to be cleared first in order to get to the legitimate call.
She said this is why legitimate callers to the centre may not get through immediately “because you have 10 more prank callers in front of you and by the time we’re through with them, you may hang up.”
Malcolm quipped that “it’s really weird that the prank callers get through quicker than people with emergencies,” noting that some of them even use two phones.
“So we hang up with one and get another call and it’s the same person,” she said, noting that these calls are made even easier for pranksters as a sim card is not required in cellular phones to make calls to the emergency number.
Prank calls continue to frustrate the police who reported last month that they sometimes receive more than 7,600 (85 per cent) prank calls to the 119 emergency number on a day.
In a Jamaica Information Service (JIS) release, Head of the Emergency Communication Centre, Senior Superintendent Gary Francis said an estimated 5,000 to 9,000 calls are made to the 119 number each day, the vast majority of which are non-emergencies.
He said while the police will use moral suasion to get people to stop making prank calls, they will soon be armed with legislation to deal with the long-standing issue.
“There is legislation that is on the way to treat with all of this, and there’s also the technological advancement that we’ll be able to identify those who are doing this. But before we even get to that place, we want to urge citizens to avoid using the line without a reasonable cause,” Francis said.