Afghan Hotline Helps Police Fight Crime

Call centre aims to give public a direct role in policing, although not everyone agrees it works all the time.

Afghan Hotline Helps Police Fight Crime

Call centre aims to give public a direct role in policing, although not everyone agrees it works all the time.

Friday, 23 January, 2015

An emergency hotline to the Afghan police has made easier to report crimes and terrorist attacks, according to participants in debates organised by IWPR across the country.

Speakers in Badakhshan, Herat and Parwan provinces emphasised that the public and the police needed to work together and build mutual trust if they wanted to resolve the country’s security concerns.

By dialing 119 on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week call service operating since 2009, members of the public can report anything from crimes and terrorist activity to human rights violations and police corruption.

In Herat in western Afghanistan, police spokesman Nur Khan Nikzad said the service was a valuable resource.

“Without spending any money or revealing their identity, members of the public can inform police of any kind of intelligence or security threat in their areas,” he said.

Over the last 18 months, residents of Herat had reported 700 suspicious incidents to the police, Nikzad said, adding that “such contacts made by the public resulted in dozens of security incidents being prevented in Herat”.

Another speaker at the Herat debate said police were failing to publicise the 119 number in remote parts of the province.

Jahantab Taheri, a member of Herat’s provincial council, said that in some districts the public had never even heard of the hotline service, and in particularly isolated places, there was no mobile phone coverage. He added that sometimes the police were unwilling to take calls.

Defence expert Mohammad Naim Ghayur stressed the importance of cooperation between the police and the public. The Afghan police currently numbered 150,000, and even if there were a million of them, they would not be able to provide security without the active participation of ordinary citizens, he argued.

One speaker in the debate held in Badakhshan in the northeast highlighted specific security problems in his area. Abdul Hai Karimi, an education official in Baharak district, said that residents had reported several armed robberies on the road leading to the village of Shorghadaq, but police had failed to take appropriate action.

Sunatullah Wafai, a senior official in the district, denied this, saying, “We assigned five soldiers to patrol the road to Shoghadaq every day to ensure people’s safety.”

Habibullah, another debate participant, complained that people who called the 119 number to pass on information were themselves subject to interrogation.

“This behaviour by the police has discouraged local people,” he said.

Saheb Khan, the head of criminal investigations in Baharak district, explained that it was essential for the police to question callers.

“Through our questioning, we want to determine whether the information is true or false. We also want to find out whether the tip-off is genuine or stems from personal animosity,” he said.

In Parwan province, the local government head in Bagram district, Abdul Shukur Qudusi assured participants that officers took reports made to the 119 call centre extremely seriously.

“This commitment is so great that the interior minister himself has taken action, ordering provincial police offices to deal with reports immediately,” he said.

This report is based on an ongoing series of debates conducted as part of the IWPR programme Afghan Reconciliation: Promoting Peace and Building Trust by Engaging Civil Society.



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