Distressed citizens who reach out to the 999 Emergency Rapid Response Command Centre, are not getting immediate help according to Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith.
Speaking at the New Grant Hindu School during a community meeting on Monday, Griffith revealed that on New Year’s Eve 2020, only one operator was on duty to take calls from the entire country.
He expressed sympathy to Princes Town businessman Rohan Kungbeharrysingh who complained to him that he waited five years but never received any help from 999 when burglars broke into his house.
Griffith explained that 999 fell under the purview of the Ministry of National Security and not the TTPS.
“There is a problem with 999. Anyone ever tried to call 999? Sometimes when you call you are on hold for 20 minutes. 999 is not under the T&T Police Service. It is under the Ministry of National Security. We respond to the 999 calls from those who run 999. We found out that people are calling 999 and 20 minutes they are on hold and that is because of the people there who are under the Ministry of National Security. We have no involvement in how that runs, but we get blamed,” Griffith said.
He added that the 999 Command Centre, which is run by the Ministry of National Security, was giving the TTPS a bad name but he assured citizens that both he and Minister of National Security Stuart Young were trying to improve the system.
Griffith said emergency distress calls must be dealt with immediately.
“I am trying to make sure there is an immediate response to any distress call. If you call 999 and it does not connect after three or four rings, it will trigger into the 555 where our police officers will have operational control to deal with the distress call,” Griffith said.
He noted that when someone was in distress you could not expect them to remember the seven-digit number of any police station.
” When you are in distress, you press three numbers immediately and you should get an immediate response,” Griffith said.
He revealed that on New Year’s Eve last year while most people were partying or was in Church, he paid a visit to the E999 Command Centre and was astonished to see only one operator on duty to take calls for the entire country.
“There were supposed to be 12 operators there throughout at all times. You would think that on New Year’s Eve of all times that is when you need maximum numbers because of fireworks, dogs, parties, zesser parties or whatever, only one person was on duty to deal with all of the calls in the entire country. And that is totally unacceptable. The Minister of National Security is trying to rectify it,” he said.
Griffith urged citizens to continue to lodge reports online and to assist the police with their ongoing investigations.
Over the past year, there has been a marked increase in domestic violence, kidnappings and missing person reports. Citizens are also being urged to use the emergency features on their phones to get help.