Bangladesh Police is making its National Emergency Helpline (999) more robust, while strengthening its services to stand beside people in trouble, according to officials.
The hotline 999 is a toll-free number that allows citizens in distress to call and ask for police assistance. Citizens can avail a number of services through this helpline, including assistance for any types of crime, accident, abduction, fire, and call for ambulance.
With an aim to ensure prompt service, authorities have already started setting up Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) in all police patrol cars across the country.
At present, there are 1,300 patrol cars of police -- which remain on duty round the clock -- under the supervision of 622 police stations across the country, according to officials.
Once the MDT sets are installed in cars, helpline officials will be able to assign the nearest patrolling team to support the caller, collecting live location online.
For this service, the authorities have already updated the location tracking system with help from Engineering and Operation (E&O) department of Bangladesh Telecom Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to get the caller’s exact location.
BTRC officials confirmed that they have already issued letters to all telecom companies asking them to assist in the process of locating callers.
Tabarak Ullah, additional deputy inspector general of police, also in-charge of the emergency helpline service, told The Daily Star on Tuesday that they have taken multiple initiatives marking the occasion of “Mujib Borsho” to address people’s calls more promptly.
BETTER TECH FOR FASTER RESPONSE
During the primary stage of the helpline’s operation, average response time was 31 minutes.
Since last year, the authorities have installed MDT sets in 92 patrol cars, and “disperse systems” in 200 police stations, said police officials.
A disperse system is a separate communication device that allows emergency helpline authorities to contact duty officers of police stations at any time, they said.
This has brought the average response time down to 21 minutes, sources told this newspaper.
After the successful installation of MDT and disperse systems, the officials are hopeful of bringing the average response time down to just 10 minutes, said additional DIG Tabarak.
This helpline is playing an active role in combating crime. For example, on September 26 last year at 8:31am, a caller from Khilgaon informed that three girls were confined at a flat inside a five-storey building.
The girls were brought to Dhaka from Sylhet with the promise of jobs abroad, the caller said, explaining to helpline officials that one of the girls had managed to escape and seek help from him.
The helpline officer immediately communicated with Khilgaon Police Station and asked them to take necessary action. A team lead by Sub-inspector Shakhawat Hossain went to the spot immediately and rescued the girls.
The police team also arrested a trafficker named Roksana (30).
Helpline officials said they were able to complete the operation in just 20 minutes, successfully rescuing the three teenage victims.
Additional DIG Tabarak said they would install MDT sets at 350 fire stations and in fire service vehicles in phases, once the installation in police patrol cars is complete.
BRINGING MORE HANDS ON DECK
With 450 employees, the national help desk is now able to take 120 calls simultaneously, according to officials.
The construction of a five-storey building for the helpline’s central command centre is underway in the capital’s Demra.
Officials said the building would have a steel structure and they are hopeful to complete the work before Mujib Borsho ends.
Presently, the hotline is providing service using the premises of central command and control centre of Dhaka Metropolitan Police.
The authorities have a plan to increase the number of service desks to accommodate 500 calls at a time, said helpline officials.
They also have a plan to increase the helpline’s manpower during Mujib Borsho. Presently, the helpline has authorised manpower of 200 officials, while 250 others are working in deputation, according to police sources.
A proposal for recruiting another 1,923 people is already under process at home ministry, which is expected to be approved within this year, said Additional DIG Tabarak.
“We want to revamp and improve this helpline during Mujib Borsho,” added the official.