Fri | Dec 3, 2021

119 emergency

Published:Monday | July 27, 2015 | 12:00 AMPatria-Kaye Aarons, Contributor

Last Wednesday, a stabbing occurred in Kings Plaza. A fistfight had taken place between two men 39 minutes prior and one party hurriedly left with both his body and ego bruised.

He returned with a carload of supporters armed with long metal spears determined to seek vengeance.

Before the first stab was administered, I got on the phone and dialled 119. The call disconnected immediately. I called a second time and the same thing happen. I dialled a third time and three strange beeps came from the other side. Not until my fourth attempt at calling did the phone ring. And ring it did. For almost three minutes.

By this time, the man had been stabbed twice in the head, was near unconscious and bleeding profusely, and several others around him had been beaten to a pulp by the car posse. The attackers loaded up in their vehicle and drove off long before someone at police command even answered the phone.

Why can't we get 119 right?

It has to be fixed. Hands down, crime is Jamaica's biggest problem. The mechanism to report and, perhaps, stop crime must be a well-oiled, working machine.

This is just another item on the list of age-old priority issues that gets shoved under the rug. Three times in the past two years have I had occasion to call 119, and not once did I get through on the first dial. How does this instil confidence in people? How do you competently serve

and protect if, in the first place, you are unreachable?

My experience is not unique. I expressed my frustration via social media and the responses I got were shameful - harrowing stories of real-life people in trouble, afraid and in need of help who were unable to get timely assistance because 119 was down.

Sure, I store the number for my nearest police station and for the commissioner's office, but in the midst of crisis, 119 is the number I know. It is the number we teach our children to know. It should work.

Every piece of communication that calls for citizens to tell what they know lists 119 as a contact point. As it should. How are the police sure they haven't lost informants to the hands of a malfunctioning 119? That would be a travesty.

The police emergency line should never go down. Never!

I don't know what the problem is. If it is a technical issue, get Digicel and Cable & Wireless to work together and help you sort it out. If the operation is understaffed, it's important enough to find the money to put more people there. Ask corporate Jamaica to help foot the salary of one more head per willing company.


ready and willing

Solicit volunteers maybe from the Church. I would give up an hour every week to answer the phone if you train me.

The equipment is old? Let's start a crowdfunding site to raise some money to upgrade it. Whatever the problems are, we have to address them with urgency.

Peter Bunting, admitting the failings of 119 in April of 2014, promised a system upgrade. Was it done? Is this the upgraded system at work?

The police already have a very difficult task. They are fighting against criminal elements who are not only good at what they do, but who have the resources to do what they do. We have to combat their preparedness with at least the basic tools to give Jamaican police and Jamaican civilians a fighting chance against the scourge. Emergency number 119 is a basic tool.

It's great when the police solve crime, but I would much prefer that they stop crime before it happens. These three digits have the potential to be the most effective tool in stopping crime before it happens.

The fact that it is not working properly - and has not been for a very long time - is a national emergency. I urge the minister of national security and the commissioner to fix it.

-Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to and, or tweet @findpatria.