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Kosovo Emergency! What's That Number Again?

Kosovo Police receive hundreds of thousands of emergency calls every year, but many have to be patched through after initially dialing the wrong number. (file photo)
Kosovo Police receive hundreds of thousands of emergency calls every year, but many have to be patched through after initially dialing the wrong number. (file photo)

Many people in Kosovo do not know the quickest way to call police for an emergency.

Experts say that's because there have been three different emergency numbers over the past 20 years, and there has never been an adequate public information campaign informing people of the latest change -- made 11 years ago.

Interviews by RFE/RL reveal that many older Kosovars still think they should call 092 -- the police dispatch number 20 years ago when Yugoslavia's former president, Slobodan Milosevic, was in power.

But after the Kosovo War ended in 1999 and a United Nations interim administration was set up in Pristina, the emergency police number was changed to 112 -- the same number used in more than 100 countries.

The number for direct calls to Kosovo's police dispatch centers was changed again, to 192, after Pristina declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

'Big Failure'

Plator Avdiu, a law enforcement expert at the Pristina-based Kosovo Center for Security Studies, says authorities should be concerned.

"It has been years since they've changed that number, but people are still not informed," Avdiu told RFE/RL. "This is a big failure that the Kosovo Police should address."

Kosovo Police spokesman Baki Kelani could not say how many Kosovars know they should call police at 192 in an emergency.

"It's a public number published on our official website and in all Kosovo Police leaflets," Kelani said.

"Citizens should know this number," he said. "But even if they don't know it, I believe they know to call 112 and they will be transferred" to a police dispatcher in their area.

However, critics of the transfer process for handling 112 calls say it slows the response time and forces callers to repeat basic information.

They say that extra time could mean the difference between life and death in some emergencies.

Out of more than 50 people recently questioned by RFE/RL on the streets of Pristina, fewer than a dozen knew to call 192.

Only half knew the 112 number, despite the fact that it was written on new police cars deployed in Kosovo from 1999 to 2008.

About a quarter of Kosovars questioned by RFE/RL thought from watching American television programs and movies that Kosovo's emergency police number was 911.

Others responded with nonexistent numbers such as 991 and 999.

Wherever a caller is in Kosovo, phoning 192 automatically puts them in contact with the closest local police-dispatch center.

300,000 Emergency Calls

Calls from Pristina and the surrounding area go to a municipal police unit known as Alpha Control where four dispatchers work a typical daytime shift in a room that is crowded with CCTV monitors.

One dispatcher there told RFE/RL that "most people call 112 in an emergency and their call is transferred to us."

Dispatch records show more than 300,000 emergency calls were made in 2018 across Kosovo using both the 112 and 192 numbers.

Naim Ramizi, a 35-year-old restaurant owner in Pristina, told RFE/RL that public service announcements should be broadcast in Kosovo to make people more aware about calling 192 in an emergency.

"There should be a public information campaign to inform people on the evening news on television because that is watched by a lot of people," Ramizi said.

"Even a short advertisement of three to four seconds would be enough to inform people," Ramizi said.

Naile Hajvazi, a woman in her 50s from the village of Hajvalia to the southeast of Pristina, said mobile-telephone providers like Kosovo Telecom also should be engaged as part of a public awareness campaign.

"They should send out text messages to everyone about this 192 number so everyone will know the correct number," Hajvazi told RFE/RL.

Written by Ron Synovitz in Prague with reporting by Taulant Qenaj in Pristina

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