As many as 80% of the hoax calls received on police emergency helpline 15 are made by children.
The surprising figure came out in an analysis by Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA).
According to the authority, on average 9,000 to 10,000 calls are received daily from Lahore on the helpline. As many as 90% of the calls were fake, irrelevant, or hoax.
PSCA Chief Operating Officer (COO) Kamran Khan says the number of false calls was frustrating because they consume the resources and time and obstruct immediate response to those calling for help in distress.
He said some suggestions had emerged for coordinated action against such calls but they needed time-consuming legal measures.
As an immediate measure, the authority decided to take action on its own after an analysis of the hoax calls. The analysts identified about 200 numbers from which repeated calls had been made to the helpline.
The staff called back the numbers to warn the perpetrators of the legal section if they did not refrain from making unnecessary phone calls.
The official said that astonishingly 165 of the callers turned out to be children and most of them were watching cartoons on their mobile phones.
The analysts believe that parents give their phones to children to keep them busy and the toll-free emergency phone number is recorded in almost every smartphone.
The number is dialed inadvertently and no one speaks to the operator.
However, the operators wait before disconnecting the call because the caller may be facing a situation making it difficult to raise voice.
However, many genuine cases needing police attention may be neglected because of the time of the staff consumed by hoax calls.
A number of calls are received at the centre at the same time.
When all the phone lines are busy due to heavy traffic, the other calls get in the queue. A call on the queue is automatically dropped after a certain time limit.
Meanwhile, the danger faced by a caller may aggravate during repeated attempts to call the emergency helpline, the authority’s COO said.
According to a Punjab Safe Cities Authority (PSCA) report, as many as 2,400 citizens were found involved in making repeated unnecessary calls to the Emergency Helpline 15 during the past year. After these pranksters were traced and warned by the PSCA, they desisted from the act.
The authority began collecting data of those making false emergency phone calls after it was revealed that over 80 per cent of the calls received daily through the free service were frivolous. It began collecting data of such callers and calling them back to issue warnings. During the year, about 2,400 people who repeatedly made unnecessary calls were pinpointed and 2,300 of them have responded positively to the warnings.
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The Safe Cities Authority has reportedly submitted recommendations to the government to block the mobile phone SIMs of those making obnoxious phone calls on the helpline despite warnings and force them to pay charges.
The helpline was set up to provide immediate assistance to the citizens in case of emergency but widespread misuse of the facility was noted, prompting the authority to contact the irresponsible callers and warn them.
The Emergency Helpline 15 in Lahore and Pukar 15 across the province received more than 2.2 million phone calls every month but over 85% of them were false and unnecessary.
When the authority compiled the data of frequent callers, the phone numbers of around 2,400 people involved in teasing the operators and wasting time were traced.
Reportedly, the move to contact such callers and warn them had proved successful and 2,300 of them had stopped dialing the helpline.
However, according to police sources, the details and phone numbers of the fake callers on the emergency helpline have not been provided to Lahore police by the Safe Cities Authority. As a result, registration of cases against them under the Telegraph Act is being delayed.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2021.