Thompson resident Geri Dixon appeared before city council on Sept. 17 to complain about experiencing long wait times when calling the RCMP via Thompson’s 204-677-6911 emergency line.
Dixon said that recently she was forced to wait on the phone for an extended period of time as someone was trying to break-in to her daughter’s home.
“When you’re in that situation, when someone is coming into your house and you’re put on hold and you have two small children, it’s not acceptable,” said Dixon. “We’re the Hub of the North here. Why can’t we have our own dispatch centre or even get back to a 911, where if you call that number you’re going to have the response?”
Dixon said that this isn’t an isolated incident and that these long wait times have been the norm in Thompson for the last several years.
“In my household alone in the last two-and-half years we have tried to contact the police numerous times and four out of five times we were not able to get through,” she said. “And we watched a kid getting stabbed on our street and it was the ambulance that came first, because they could not get through to the RCMP either. So the situation is getting worse.”
Mayor Dennis Fenske said that the decision to get rid of Thompson’s local call centre and centralize the entire process through Brandon was made by the Manitoba government, not the city.
“We should never have lost our call centre here, but that’s out of our control,” he said. “That was a provincial decision and they’ve adopted it. In regards to 911, the infrastructure is not in place in Northern Manitoba, not just Thompson but in Northern Manitoba, for that to work.”
Even though they are currently lobbying the government to fix this problem, Fenske said that, in the meantime, anybody who calls for police should simply stay on the line as long as it takes.
“If you don’t stay on the line your call gets dropped and you go to the back the bus as if you’ve never called,” he said. “I agree it’s not acceptable but that’s the reality of Manitoba.”