DRUNK? Lost your phone? Or just lost?
Shanghai police say 2,330 distressed foreigners called them for help last year, up slightly from the previous year.
Sixty police officers speaking English, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Russian, French, German, Spanish and Italian are standing by 24x7 for calls from foreigners.
Cheng Xiang, a 29-year-old community police officer working in Yangpu District, is one of them. With a diploma in English, he joined the service in 2014.
Late on December 19 last year, an American called 110 from a hotel in Shanghai claiming that he had some problem with the staff there because he couldn’t find his luggage he left in the room he had checked out of and which had been reoccupied.
A call-taker at the call center immediately included Cheng in the communication and with his interpretation the problem was quickly solved for the American as police officers nearby were sent to the hotel to help verify his claim and take the luggage from the occupied room.
Cheng also recalled a case where he helped settle a family dispute where the American wife disagreed with her Chinese husband on child-raising.
“We do our best to solve an issue over the phone so as to save the police manpower,” Cheng said.
Similar to Cheng, who often gets calls in the middle of night from foreigners who lost their way, Yang Yonghao, a 37-year-old police officer working at the Exit-Entry Administration Bureau of the Shanghai Public Security Bureau and who speaks Korean, said his sleep is often disrupted by this part-time work.
“Some people call in the early morning claiming to be blackmailed by bartenders but they were just drunk and forgot that they hadn’t paid the bills,” he said.
Li Lin, an official of the police call center at Shanghai Public Security Bureau, said 400 Chinese-speaking call-takers at the call center who receive the calls first have all been trained to ask in English questions such as “What language do you speak” and “I will help you connect to an interpreter.” Police said the call center received 37,000 calls a day last year.