Persons who make prank calls to the island’s emergency services could be asked to pay the cost of mobilising resources to respond.
This was intimated by Deputy Superintendent of Police at the Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Stephanie Lindsay, at a JIS ‘Think Tank’, held on December 11.
She was supported by Assistant Superintendent in charge of communication at the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB), Emilio Ebanks.
"This (prank calls) is something that we have looked at. We try to dissuade people from doing it, because it continues to be a problem. We never know, we might have to get to that point soon where persons who abuse state resources are held accountable. We are not there yet, but it is something that could be looked at going forward,” Miss Lindsay said.
Annually, the JCF and the Jamaica Fire Brigade (JFB) receive hundreds of prank calls, a practice which peaks during the Christmas season. Because of the obvious strain this places on the delivery of emergency services, lobbying is being done to have prank callers pay the cost of mobilising resources to respond.
Ms. Lindsay pointed out that while it is the mandate of the JCF to serve, protect and reassure, there are resource constraints and so it is important that citizens act responsibly in requesting emergency services.
She said it is important that citizens realize that state emergency services will respond to calls for help, as this is their mandate, but they must resist making prank calls, as this robs legitimate ones from being served.
“We don’t want people to take it for granted, that because we have the state service, this can be abused. They must also recognize that the demand is much greater than what’s available. So, the more persons can take responsibility and minimise these incidents, the better we are able to ensure that persons are kept safe,” Ms. Lindsay said.
Meanwhile, Assistant Superintendent Ebanks said that the high number of prank calls is taking a toll on the quality of service delivered by the JFB. He said that the agency would support any move to have prank callers pay.
He cited an instance where a new fire truck with tons of fire-fighting equipment and costing upwards of $20 million was written off in a traffic accident, while on its way to an urgent fire call, which turned out to be false.
"We certainly have to be looking at that as a means of reducing these calls. You’re exposing the firefighters and other road users to danger, so we might have to look at this as a situation where we can reclaim,” he told JIS News.