Indonesia police call centre swarmed by pranks

This is 110: An operator answers a call at a police call center located in the Citywalk Sudirman building, Central Jakarta. The office employs 100 civilians as operators who work eight-hour shifts and receive an average of 72,814 calls a day.

Ade Intan, 26, answered an incoming call at her work station, telling the caller that he was contacting the police 110 emergency call number. A child laughed on the line, without answering any of her questions.

"I'm sorry. Your call is not serious [so] I will hang up. Thank you," said Ade while inputting the call's details, such as phone number, type of call and kind of prank, into a database. The next few incoming calls seemed to come from the same little boy.

From January to March this year, 110 received an average of 2.18 million calls a month nationwide and 80 per cent of them, or 1.75 million, were pranks, or as 110 operators call them: "junk calls."

"We receive more than 58,000 junk calls like this every day," Ario, the 110 operational supervisor, said after letting The Jakarta Post reporter hear Ade's line through one of the centre's call monitors.

All incoming calls, including the pranks, are recorded in an application and kept in the call centre's database. Most of the pranks usually take the form of empty calls, harassment, or just someone laughing, like the little boy.

Only a fraction of the calls, or about 1,500 a month, could be verified and followed up by a local police precinct in the respective municipality or regency (Polres), said Wahyu Priyambodo, the operational manager of PT Telekomunikasi Indonesia (Telkom), the National Police partner for 110.

The rest of the calls were not pranks, but not emergencies either. Some callers ask for information about obtaining documents from the police.

The 110 service, launched in January 2013 by the National Police, is an emergency call service that can be dialed via fixed-line telephones, cell phones and even satellite phones free of charge. An emergency situation report received by an operator needs to be verified first using a series of standard questions prepared by the police. The questions may vary depending on the situation reported by the caller.

The operator then gives the emergency information to a leader who will recheck the report and forward it - once confirmed and verified - in a form of a text message via an Intranet or the Internet to the nearest Polres from the caller's location for follow-up and action. Each Polres across Indonesia is equipped with a set of computers and CUG (Closed User Groups) devices to receive the report.

"The respective Polres bear the responsibility for taking any actions and following up once the information is forwarded to them. The call centre can only check the information status via our application on whether it's already been followed up or not," said Ario.

"Problems usually occur if the officer in charge is not at his work desk because the message notification alarm only beeps for about a minute. After that, the officer needs to refresh the system regularly to check whether a report is coming into the system, a thing that some officers forget to do," he said, adding that the call centre could not make a direct call to the Polres to follow up on the report.

Comr. Alex Suryohadi of the National Police information technology division said Thursday that the obstacles the system face were not only the human resource problems, but also broken electronic devices and poor Internet connections.

"I once received a report that a Polres officer in Papua had to go to a warnet [Internet rental kiosk] to sign in to our application and check a report sent by the call centre in Jakarta because no Internet connection was available at the Polres office," he said.

Alex, who has been the contact person for matters related to the call centre since 2013, enthusiastically explained that previously the police had borrowed the number 112, which is a global cellular phone emergency line, because the 110 line had not been ready to become the nationwide hotline.

Using 112 did not work very well because some of the calls were asking about cell phone problems that could not be answered by the police officers.

The National Police then decided to return to 110 and improve the service by partnering with Telkom to form a team of trained call operators based on the police standard.

Currently, the 24-hour call centre, located in the Citywalk Sudirman building in Central Jakarta, employs 100 civilian operators who have to work in eight-hour shifts. As many as 70 operators will work during peak hours, while only 20 of them will work during slow times, like at night.

"Our auto-answer system allows us to receive non-stop incoming calls. So, it's not true if some people say that our telephones are not ringing," the call centre's operational coordinator Hendriyawan said, adding that the call centre operators made the police work more effectively because only verified reports were forwarded to the relevant Polres.

"The importance of this call centre needs more promotion and dissemination to the public to increase awareness and to reduce the numbers of prank calls," he said while the words "your call is not serious" could be faintly heard from all around the room.