Police ignore panicked 10111 call

2014-09-09 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG woman is demanding answers after she called 10111 for a neighbour in distress and no one responded, although the local police station is a stone’s throw away.

Boughton resident Linda Longhurst, a section editor at The Witness, said she heard loud banging and crashing noises and the terrifying sounds of a woman screaming for help in the early hours of Sunday morning. She was afraid of going outside so she called the police emergency line, 10111.

“The woman next door was screaming, ‘Somebody please help me’ over and over again. I called the police and I waited until 3 am [to see if they were coming], but they never came.”

At 6 am, Longhurst called again, only to find that the earlier call she had made had not even been logged. Her cellular phone records show that her first call was made at 00.28 am. And another one was made just after 6 am.

Later in the morning, she went to the Prestbury police station to speak to the police officers there and lay a complaint about their lack of response, but they showed little interest and casually told her to call the commissioner of police to lay a complaint and gave her the telephone number.

Longhurst said she found the police response shocking. “This is our emergency service … We live very close to the police station and the police could have easily walked there if they did not have a vehicle.”

She said that with hindsight, calling her private security firm would have been the better option. “I do not know whether they would have attended … but I would have paid them, if it came to that.

“I would like to believe that someone would help me [in an emergency] and I feel terrible that that poor woman believed that none of her neighbours did anything to help her.

“Meanwhile, I tried to help by phoning the police. That’s what they are there for, aren’t they?” Longhurst said.

The woman, who said she was involved in a domestic dispute with her partner, told The Witness yesterday that the police came to her home twice — in the night and in the morning. She would not elaborate on exactly when this had been.

However, Longhurst was adamant that she had kept vigil at her window until 3 am, and had lain awake for a while after, and no police had arrived.

By the time of going to press last night, the police produced no evidence that they had visited the woman.

Evidence of the night of terror she had endured was plainly visible from the driveway gate. The gate at the door was bent, pieces of a broken car light littered the driveway and a car in the yard had been extensively damaged.

Police response

Sunday Times survey

The Sunday Times recently conducted a survey on police stations around the country and found that only one in four calls have a chance of getting through. It reported that 327 of the calls placed to the country’s 1 150 police stations went unanswered.

Of those 327 calls, 178 were not answered, 73 resulted in disconnections, 55 were wrong numbers and 18 resulted in “subscriber not available” messages.

It also revealed that there was a report that the 10111 centre in Durban failed to record calls for six months in 2013, although the police disputed this.

Institute for security studies advice

Dr Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies said 10111 fails its callers frequently. At times, he said, calls are not attended to due to bad management, while prank calls also clog up the system.

Burger said the best way of getting through to the police when you need help is through the local community policing forum.

“Do not rely on 10111 because there are far too many examples where it does not work.”

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