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January 11, 2013

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Hotline a lifeline too often misused

IMPROPER calls to the 110 Shanghai police hotline remain a headache for operators as the service completed its 20th year in operation yesterday.

Shanghai police receive 35,000 calls on average every day but 58 percent of them are not valid because they are made by people seeking inappropriate consultations, calling in the same information, dialing a wrong number or even engaging in harassment. That wastes significant public resources, Shanghai Public Security Bureau officials said.

On Tuesday, a police station on Ruijin No. 2 Road, Huangpu District, got a call saying a shopkeeper was trying to chop up a resident in a dispute, which caused two officers, Song Yiming and Gu Yaozong, to rush out of the station. But when they arrived, they found only a spoon in the shopkeeper's hand.

That's only one example of the 20,300 invalid emergency calls, slightly lower than last year's 22,000, that police say they receive every day due to people's inadequate knowledge or lack of calling skills.

Most improper calls are complaints. Yesterday morning, Song's station received a complaint about overcharging in hospitals and a report about a stray dog in the street.

"When we arrived, we found the dog with its owner and it went back home soon," Song said. "Once we get a call, we'll go for a check in a short time."

There are 301 operators at the police call center, and 80 percent are women with an average age of 29, who among them can speak nine foreign languages - English, German, French, Japanese, Russian, Korean, Arabic, Spanish and Italian.

Each picks up the phone 450 times every day during the 12-hour workday. The team is on duty 24/7 with 60 operators per shift. Except for meals and necessary breaks, they have almost no slack time. Due to their efforts and the nature of the emergency line, less than two percent of the callers will have to wait in line, police said.

On the anniversary of the city's 110 service yesterday, police appealed to locals to call 110 in a correct way to save the line for those truly in need.

Last year, Shanghai police received nearly 13 million calls and more than 4 million of them required action. On a record day, the operators picked up 75,000 calls - one call per 2.5 seconds, police said.

Police officials reminded locals that calling 110 to deliberately report false information or disturb the public order can result in serious punishment such as detention.


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