Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Letter of the day: Trace and prosecute 119 prank callers

Published:Monday | January 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM


I refer to the Sunday Gleaner front-page story of January 10, 2016, regarding the alleged abuse of the 119 emergency line. Similar stories about the fire emergency line have been aired, too.

I am tired of hearing and reading stories about the issue without any seeming reference to any commonsensical solutions being put forward to frontally deal with the problem.

According to the Police Control Centre, as reported, they receive between 27,000 to 33,000 calls per day, with about 70 per cent of those being prank calls or calls from persons making directory assistance-type requests.

In today's age, just about every telephone can be traced, as landlines have traditionally been able to, and cell phones are typically equipped with such technology. Why then do we not seek, adopting the technology, if necessary, to trace and prosecute people who abuse the emergency system?

If our laws do not currently so provide, we need to enact a law with both punitive and deterrent effects to help curb the wanton and irresponsible abuse of the emergency lines.

In time made available for government broadcasts, the Jamaica Information Service could air reminders to the general populace as to the correct use of the emergency lines, giving some examples of acceptable and unacceptable calls. Schools and parents should also remind children about the importance of not abusing the system.

Since the emergency lines use a call-queueing system, there should be a recording while callers are on hold to remind that if one is making a prank call, s/he should hang up immediately and desist from placing such calls, as pranksters will be traced and prosecuted.




Additionally, since several people, out of ignorance or seeking to take advantage of the free call, misuse the emergency lines for directory-assistance purposes, there should also be a recording while waiting to advise that such types of calls are not dealt with via the emergency lines.

It is clear that both education and penalties are needed to prevent the wanton abuse of the emergency system, and it is high time we stop complaining and act to solve the problem.

While at it, we should move towards a centralised emergency system, dealing with police, fire and medical under one umbrella, rather than all the separate emergency numbers to remember. Once called, the operator should ask what is the emergency and route the call accordingly.