Pocket dials blamed for surge in 911 calls

An increase in calls “caused by persons sitting on their phone or letting it bang around in their purse, inadvertently calling 911,” has been blamed for a dramatic rise in calls to the emergency number over the past year, the Department of Public Safety Communications says.

Calls to emergency services increased by 20.5 percent, the department said.

But officials at the emergency response center say the bulk of this increase comes from accidental calls.

In its annual report for the 2014/15 financial year, the Department of Public Safety Communications records that it answered 95,092 emergency calls – compared with less than 80,000 for the previous year.

“The upward trend appears to come from an increase in the number of abandoned or hang up calls, also known as butt calls,” the report states.

The report notes a rise of around 6 percent in calls that resulted in emergency services actually being dispatched to deal with an incident.

Domestic disturbances, vehicle accidents and thefts accounted for the highest number of 911 calls in the past year.

Despite a surge in calls, staff improved their response times for answering and referring calls to the relevant emergency services, the report states.

“For the first time, the average call processing time was within international standards,” Director of Public Safety Communications Brent Finster wrote in his executive summary to the report.

Just over 97 percent of 911 calls were answered within 10 seconds, and emergency and critical calls were dispatched to police, fire or ambulance, on average, within 90 seconds – within internationally approved timelines.

The bulk of police calls – more than 65 percent – were within George Town. West Bay accounted for 17 percent of calls for police assistance.

The department is also responsible for managing the electronic monitoring of offenders and the national CCTV program.

During 2014/15, the report states, 94 new offenders were monitored after being tagged with GPS tracking devices on the instructions of the courts or police. The department has a budget for 36 tags to be in use at any one time. Nearly all were in use during the past year, according to statistics which indicate an average of 34.6 actively monitored offenders per month.

The center, which tracks the movements of tagged offenders, provided 50 statements to police and the department of community rehabilitation on offenders who had violated the conditions of court orders.

Staff also processed 370 requests for copies of video images from the National CCTV Programme which have been or will be used as evidence in crimes and other police matters, the report states.

Mr. Finster said the results showed staff had handled thousands of transactions rapidly and with a high degree of professionalism.