It was around midnight on November 12, 2019. The assigned police officials for the National Emergency Service were working the night shift at the Central Command and Control Centre in the capital's Abdul Gani road area.
Suddenly a telephone rang. Someone named Mizan from Jashore's Bagherpara area called and sought police help at about 11:20pm. He informed the police that rice was being stolen from the government's food storage warehouse in the area.
Acting on the information, the central operator of the emergency service contacted the on-duty police officer of Bagherpara police station, Assistant Sub-Inspector Hannan.
Hannan with his force immediately rushed to the spot and raided the go-down. They seized 600 sacks of stolen rice and detained the thieves.
The call was made to the emergency helpline '999' that night.
Not just in Jashore, thousands of people across the country got help through the '999' helpline in the last two years since it was set-up.
On November 10, 2019, around 30 workers of a dredging project on the Tetulia river were saved from drowning during cyclone Bubul after a worker named Ramzan called 999 and gave information about the location of the boat.
The Bangladesh Coast Guard and a law enforcement rescue team responded to the call. They reached to the spot and rescued the stranded workers.
Anisul Haque Mridha, the assistant superintendent of police at the National Emergency Service, recalls the incident of a father in Chuadanga district who called 999 after his daughter was abducted by a stalker and trafficked to India. Using available local contacts, the emergency service succeeded in repatriating the girl within a week.
"One night, a man asked for help because his sister was trying to commit suicide in her room, which was locked from the inside. We informed the local police, and the suicide attempt was averted because of their quick intervention," Mridha recollected.
Within just two years of being set-up, the National Emergency Service of the Bangladesh Police, commonly known as the '999 hotline', has won the people's trust by its handling of numerous emergency situations.
The additional deputy inspector general of the National Emergency Service, Md Tabaraq Ullah, said that the service has served at least 1,75,589 people till November 7 this year.
"Of these calls, 1,28,437 calls were made for seeking police help. The other 26,827 and 20,325 calls were for fire services and ambulance services respectively," he added.
But the authority also acknowledged that the service is still facing immense difficulties because of its own stakeholders.
Most of the officers assigned to the 999 helpline service in 92 police stations do not respond properly because they are unfamiliar with the use of the system.
At the same time, most of the 92 Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) enabled vehicles show non-tracking or inactive status most days of the week.
This correspondent obtained a status report that shows that out of 92 MDT enabled vehicles, 60 to 62 showed non-tracking status in November.
An assistant superintendent of police seeking anonymity said that many officers assigned to local police stations are not interested in activating the devices.
On November 23, 2019, fifty-nine MDT-enabled vehicles were found to be inactive. Sixty-four were inactive on November 24, sixty-three on November 25, sixty-one on November 26, fifty-nine on November 27, and sixty on November 28 were found to be in non-tracking mode. And on November 29, fifty-eight patrol vehicles were found to be inactive.
This means that the vehicles with non-tracking status are unable to respond immediately if there are any incidents in those places.
"It is totally contradictory to the aim of the emergency service. It was launched to provide people with emergency help such as sending an ambulance, a fire-service vehicle and providing police help by contacting the nearest police station in any incident," said Md Tabaraq Ullah, admitting the problem.
He added that the National Emergency Service headquarters has also been facing problems in dealing with the local police stations. Because of this, a quick response to callers cannot be implemented smoothly.
On December 7, 2019, only three MDT enabled vehicles of police stations under the Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) were found on-track.
Poritosh Chandra, officer-in charge of DMP's Kalabagan police station also admitted to the problem, and said they always try to respond to the emergency service immediately.
"The poor technical knowledge of assigned policemen and the problem of charging the devices are causes for the delay. We are seriously working on the matter," he added.
In October 2018, MDT devices were installed in 92 vehicles at 92 police stations under eight metropolitan and range police units. They plan to have 309 more police stations providing such coverage across the country in the near future.
Another 200 MDT devices are yet to be install in other police stations. "If we cannot ensure active status of the first 92 MDT devices, then what is the point of introducing 200 more devices?" Tabraq asked.
An assistant superintendent of police in the National Emergency Service seeking anonymity said these innovative ideas are going to die because of the negligence of local police stations. That is why only a few MDT-enabled vehicles are found to be active.
The emergency service headquarters discovered that local officials do not charge the MDT devices regularly, which is why most MDT-enabled patrol cars are in non-tracking status and cannot be sent out for emergency services.
Poritosh Chandra said that the problem has been created by a shortage of manpower, additional working hours, different types of duty and protocol, and lack of digital knowledge. He suggested that more officials should be recruited to solve the problem.
A source at the National Emergency Service also said local policemen are not very interested in the 999 service.
"As there is no option for bribery and extra-income, some assigned officers intentionally deactivate the MDT devices and do not respond to the dispatch system," he added.
The source at the emergency service headquarters also claimed that all the 49 DMP police officers assigned to the dispatch system have been trained.
NM Anik Khan, a trainer for local police officers on the emergency project said the officers were trained twice. Even then they cannot use the MDT devices and the dispatch software system.
He claimed that the problem has been created because the local police officers are negligent and unprofessional.
"If we get more police officers who have technical knowledge and who are also interested in this arena, then the dream of the emergency service will be fulfilled. Otherwise people will lose trust in the service," he added.