UK's emergency 999 number completes 75 years this weekend and police records indicate that the number routinely attracts crank and hoax callers, as well as large number of callers of Indian origin who can only speak Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi.
Introduction of the emergency number
marked a sea change in the way the public communicated with the Metropolitan Police in London, the numbers rising from a daily average of 285 per day in 1937 to 14,000 in 2012.
The estimated annual average figure is 5 million calls in June 2012.
Noting the 75-year landmark, the Metropolitan Service Thursday said the number received the highest number of daily calls during last summer's riots in London: 20,940 on August 8 and 19,889 on August 9.
The Metropolitan Police hires interpreters to deal with calls from people who can only communicate in foreign languages.
Among the languages for which interpreters are used the most are the three languages spoken by migrants from the Indian sub-continent: Bengali, Tamil and Punjabi, it said.
The 999 number also receives an average of 7,000 hoax or nuisance calls per year.
In other events to mark the anniversary, a special commemorative section has been set up on the Met's Facebook page featuring video interviews with 999 operators, a wide range of photos, illustrations and facts and figures relating to the history of the service.
Chief superintendent Jim Read, head of the Central Communication Complex, said: "The 999 system has now become a cornerstone of British policing and for emergency service partners, allowing agencies to protect life and keep people safe".
He added: "Being there 24/7 and ensuring that officers are despatched quickly to emergency and priority incidents is a critical function of the police.
"The progress since 1937 has been enormous - and we will keep striving to improve the service over the next 75 years".
The Metropolitan Police Service will mark the 75th anniversary by launching its first-ever live Twitter feed from one of its three central communications complexes (CCC) where 'first contact' operators answer tens of thousands of emergency calls every week.
A special commemorative section has also been set up on the Met's Facebook page featuring video interviews with 999 operators, a wide range of photos, illustrations and facts and figures relating to the history of the service.
The site and a special new display of historical artefacts dating back to 1829, documents and photos relating to emergency communication chart the significant developments in the service since 1937. Then only a handful of officers used counters on large table maps to denote police cars and messages were transmitted by morse code, and today there are sophisticated high-tech command centres.
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