'This is crime in action - it can be distressing' - behind the scenes of the police control room (From Harrow Times)
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Behind the scenes of north London's 999 control room at the Peel Centre, Hendon
The 999 police control room in Hendon, takes thousands of calls from people across north London a week - but what really goes on behind the scenes? Reporter Anna Slater spoke to an operator to find out.
Have you ever had to dial 999, panic stricken and distressed? Your words tangle in your throat as you try to spit out what happened. Maybe a missing child, a car crash, an armed robbery. Most don’t give a second thought to the person who answers the phone. We take it for granted: if we need them, they will come to our rescue.
But being a police operator in the 999 control room takes some degree of resilience, as I learnt when I met Lindsey Beck at the Peel Centre in Aerodrome Road, Hendon.
“This is crime in action, and it can be very distressing”, the 29-year-old admitted. “People ringing you can’t be calm, so you have to be calm for them. You have to become a robot to stop yourself from getting emotionally involved.”
She takes around 80 calls per shift on topics from domestic abuse and suicide to cats stuck in trees.
“Sometimes it appears you are shouting at the caller, but you have to take control and use tactics. Some are so traumatised they barely hear what you are saying. You sort of have to snap them back to reality.”
So far this year, the force has been inundated with 14,000 hoax and nuisance calls, and operators find this can be “draining” on the system.
Lindsey, who started her job four years ago, was once forced to teach two motorists the rules of the road when they phoned to enquire about the rules of a roundabout.
There usually a “burst” in the volume of calls in the mornings before work and schools start, and on Friday and Saturday evenings.
If the incident is considered an emergency, police officers have 15 minutes to arrive at the scene.
Last year, Lindsey received a commendation from commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe after she helped calm a domestic abuse victim.
She said: “I don’t know how I do it - you just do. You know you have to get them to safety and keep them calm. It’s all about the victim. The best part of the job is the success stories. It sounds like a cliché but that’s why I started this job - to make a real difference.”
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