More than one million prank or nuisance phone calls were made to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Services’ emergency command centre (E999) last year.
Sgt Steve Mc Kenzie of the TTPS revealed the statistics yesterday as he spoke about the type of calls made to E999 for 2018.
Mc Kenzie said a total of 1,139,798 calls were made to E999 for the period January 1 to December 31, 2018.
Of that figure 1,007,835 were either “prank, nuisance, or idle type telephone calls,” which included heavy breathing, giggling and the giving of false information, Mc Kenzie said.
This means that more than eight out of every 10 phone calls received by E999 last year were prank or nuisance calls.
Only 131,963 of the calls made to E999 last year were legitimate emergencies that required police intervention or assistance, according to the statistics, Mc Kenzie said.
The trend has not changed much for the first four months of this year.
Between the period January 1 to April 30, 2019, there were a total of 322,600 calls to E999. Of that amount, 274,173 were prank or nuisance calls.
Only 48,427 of those calls were legitimate calls that required police assistance or intervention, Mc Kenzie said.
Mc Kenzie said E999 has the ability to trace phone calls, unlike 555 which allows for callers to give anonymous tips.
“For E999 calls there is caller id and numbers can be traced and very often when we choose to prosecute those persons who make prank calls, or give misinformation in calls we would use that same technology to our advantage,” Mc Kenzie said.
People who make prank or nuisance calls to E999 can be charged, Mc Kenzie said. Under Section 106 of the Summary Offences Act, people can be changed for Misuse of a telephone which carries a fine of $200 or a month in prison.
They can also be charged for wasteful employment of police time under Section 6 of the Criminal Law Act which carries a fine of $1,000 or six months in prison.
Mc Kenzie said, while the TTPS does not prosecute all the prank callers, a “high number” have been charged so far, including repeat offenders.
“We have to prioritise what we do because of the high numbers,” Mc Kenzie said.
With the July/August school vacation in a couple of months, Mc Kenzie said he expects a rise in the number of prank calls to E999.
He, however, urged those thinking of making prank calls to reconsider their actions because of the adverse effect it has on police work.
“We expect that as school is coming to a close the figures normally raise so we are asking that the idle calls like the persons who will be contributing toward these calls to err on the side of caution,” he said.