KABUL -- Afghans are increasingly using the 119 Police Call Centre to report crimes and suspected terrorist activities, as well as police misconduct, corruption and human rights violations, officials say.
The confidential toll-free 119 hotline in Kabul, which operates around the clock with 36 operators per shift, receives tens of thousands of calls every month, according to the Ministry of Interior (MoI).
The ministry established the call centre in 2009 with international financial support. The three shifts have 108 combined operators, including seven women.
Other call centres operate in Balkh, Kunduz and Herat.
Citizens' calls have contributed to the arrests of many terrorists, drug traffickers and armed robbers, the ministry says.
"When callers give this office information on an incident, police in the 119 centre conduct a swift analysis and assessment of the case and immediately dispatch it to the nearest police station for further action," Gen. Humayun Aini, director of the MoI community policing directorate (which operates the 119 hotlines), told Salaam Times.
Thanks to callers of the Kabul 119 hotline in the past year, Afghan police neutralised 2,000 mines and explosive devices, according to call centre statistics.
"These mines were planted by the enemy on public roads used by civilians and security forces," Aini said. "After individuals called the 119 hotline and notified the police, our forces took necessary action and dismantled the mines, preventing loss of hundreds of civilian lives."
Several would-be suicide attackers, murderers and armed robbers were arrested while many terrorist attacks were foiled, all thanks to information provided by the public to the police, he added.
Citizens proud to help ensure security
Afghans express growing satisfaction with police performance and are confident that their reports to the 119 hotline will elicit a professional response.
It is a civic duty to co-operate with police to provide security, said Nurullah, 40, a farmer on the outskirts of Kabul.
"I once saw an individual and thought he might be a suicide bomber," he told Salaam Times. "I then called the 119 hotline, for which I saw a TV commercial, and called police."
Nurullah is proud of taking action and potentially saving lives and says he will call the hotline again if need be.
Civilians cannot remain indifferent towards terrorism, said Obaidullah, 32, a civil society activist in Kabul.
"If co-operation between the public and security forces increases, it will greatly impact and prevent terrorist activity in the country," he told Salaam Times.
Shoaib, 25, a student in Kabul, said he has not yet had reason to call the hotline but that he would immediately dial 119 should he ever encounter any suspicious activity or individual.
"The people are completely fed up with fighting, explosions and murder," he told Salaam Times. "That is why we are ready and willing to co-operate with the police to stop this war and killing of the innocent."
Calling 119 takes only a few moments of someone's time but can save many lives, said Aini.
"Police at the centre work tirelessly to respond to calls, and they expect the public to report any suspicious events to the police," he said.