Surrey RCMP telecommunications operators last year talked to more than 305,000 people who called for police service, generating more than 200,000 operational files.
The call volume is down slightly from the previous year — and it might have something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We actually had a bit less (call volume) in 2020 than in 2019,” Surrey RCMP Cpl. Elenore Sturko told the Now-Leader on Monday (April 12).
“Year over year typically have seen a steady increase in calls, in line with our population growth,” Sturko added. “However, 2020 was unusual and we do believe some of this is attributed to the pandemic.”
There were 309,000 calls to Surrey RCMP’s Operational Communications Centre (OCC) in 2019, so that’s close to 4,000 fewer calls in 2020.
The numbers were released Monday in recognition of Public Safety Telecommunicators Week (April 11-17).
Ninety people are on staff at the OCC, which operates around the clock to answer, triage and dispatch 911 and non-emergency calls.
“We recognize that people are often calling the police during very stressful or traumatic circumstances,” OCC Manager Lindsay Scott said in a news release posted to bc-cb.rcmp-grc.gc.ca. “Our job is to collect all the important information we can to help officers respond in the quickest and safest way possible.”
Last year the OCC fielded more than 46,000 “false or abandoned” 911 calls, “tying up significant resources,” the release says. “Some of the common calls include pocket-dials, devices like smart watches that inadvertently call 911, or kids playing with old cell phones that still have the ability to make an emergency call.”
The OCC is described as “a fast-paced environment requiring a strong ability to multi-task and switch between a non-urgent call and an unfolding, emergency file within any given shift. Telecoms operators are the first line of contact between the public and police, and an important lifeline to keep our officers on the road safe.”
Telecoms operators are trained to ask a series of questions to callers in order to understand when, what and where the incident is taking place in order to dispatch officers.
“One of the best ways to help is to follow their lead in answering the questions,” the news release notes. “In order to reduce the number of false 911’s it is important to use 911 for emergency situations only, such as an immediate threat to safety or crime in progress. All other calls should be directed to the Surrey RCMP non-emergency at 604-599-0502. Certain crime types can also be reported online.”
If you dial 911 accidentally, stay on the line to talk with a call taker who can verify your safety. If you hang up, operators must take additional steps to call back or have a police officer attend in person.