Call-takers at the City’s Public Emergency Communication Centre have to contend with an average of 280 prank calls a day. The City is therefore gearing up to take action and prevent abuse of this important resource. Read more below:
The City of Cape Town is preparing to track down and prosecute callers who abuse its 107 Public Emergency Communication Centre number.
Of the 532 682 calls answered by emergency operators in 2015, 102 217 or 20% were prank calls. A look at the monthly statistics reveals an average of just over 8 500 prank calls a month, with spikes experienced in January, April and August.
‘The calls range from emergency hoaxes to the vilest verbal abuse, but also, more disturbingly, calls of a very perverse nature. It is unacceptable that our operators who are there to do a very serious job have to endure this type of abuse with no recourse except to cut the call. It is also very unfair and potentially life-threatening to people with real emergencies who cannot get through or who are kept waiting because pranksters are clogging the lines,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.While children are routinely blamed for prank calls, experience has shown that a number of adults also abuse the system, often for sexually explicit calls. Calls to the 107 line are free from a Telkom landline as well as via the 112 number used by cellphone networks. While some prank calls are made from privately owned landlines, many use public telephones at shops and in other public spaces.
‘Our system allows us to pick up exactly where the call is coming from, but it’s tricky when the perpetrator is using a public telephone. However, many abusive calls come from landlines and cellphones. I have instructed the City’s Special Investigations Unit to extract information on the top 10 habitual offenders and lay charges in terms of national legislation that makes such prank and hoax calls to an emergency call centre an offence. A few well-publicised convictions will serve as a good deterrent if we can get them,’ added Alderman Smith.
Potential charges would be determined by the nature of the call and whether it is an abusive prankster or people reporting fake emergencies but could include crimen injuria, intimidation and attempting to defeat the administration of justice.