Still waiting for hotline solution

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 12:00am

G. Marques, in his letter to these columns (South China Morning Post, October 2), rightly complains of police inability to move with the times.

His observation that the police have failed to provide a single telephone number for the public to call in case of a 'non-emergency requiring slightly less than prompt action' has been long outstanding.

Jean Chan's response, on behalf of the Police Commissioner (Post, November 29, 1999), to John Jarman's letter (Post, November 17, 1999) on this subject indicates the force's plodding attitude.

She said: 'Careful consideration has been given to setting up a non-emergency hotline, such as '333', but this is not currently viable and other options are being actively studied.'

Well, it is now almost two years since that police response, and the public is still having to call 999 for less-than-urgent incidents.

Regarding misuse of the 999 service, although I certainly do not condone malicious calls, I can understand there will be many callers who need to report incidents and don't know how to do so effectively without invoking the 999 service.

The police, who handle all incoming 999 calls, should have an urgent re-think and arrange a parallel service to deal with non-life-threatening reports.

Unlike the 999 service, which requires instant operator response, the secondary line need not be so intensively manned.

Having a '333' line would surely be appreciated by the citizens of Hong Kong and by visitors alike, assuming it received wide publicity. To dismiss it out of hand and suggest 'other options are being actively studied', as the police letter put it, seems to suggest the police would rather not serve the public efficiently by having a single alternative phone number to call.

We long ago lost the 'red flash' on police uniforms, indicating the ability to converse in English. What further losses must the non-Chinese-speaking citizens and visitors to Hong Kong endure?