7 March 2019

Uganda: Callers Mistaking Police Emergency Lines for Telecom Numbers

At least 43 per cent of all calls received through the police 999 and 112 toll free emergency call lines in February this year were meant for the telecom companies.

According to information obtained by URN, the police 999 patrol service department which handles emergency calls and responses received 514 calls from across the country. However, 220 of the 514 calls received were from subscribers of various telecom companies who believed they were calling customer care services.

The callers raised complaints ranging from sim-card registration, mobile money service hiccups, failure to load airtime and mysterious depletion of data bundles. Only 294 calls were valid and acted upon by the department.

This is far below the capacity of the police emergency, which has the ability to handle at least 1,000 cases monthly. An officer in the communication department, on condition of anonymity said that most of the telecom clients who call the police emergency numbers are from northern and eastern Uganda.

The calls majorly come through the 112 emergency number and only a few come through 999.

"It seems they think that number is for MTN, Airtel or UTL customer service. We just keep telling them that its a police number they have called and advise them to call other numbers," the officer said.

Police spokesperson Fred Enanga confirmed the high numbers of invalid emergency calls meant for telecom companies but said there is an improvement.

Out of the 294 valid emergency calls handled, 20 were for fatal accidents, 28 serious but not fatal accidents, 20 minor accidents, 31 mob action, 37 fire out breaks and 13 cases of house break-ins among others.

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