Behind these few words, there is an expectation. A request, a hope, a complaint. Sometimes an order. Is it an emergency? A danger? Not necessarily… Over the past few years, the number of calls to the 17 switchboard has been rising steadily. At certain times of the day, we’re on the verge of implosion. And yet, in the vast majority of cases, the calls are not « Police Emergency missions », or « police missions at all ».
Who is on the other end of the phone?
The police named them « applicants ». It is an administrative term to mention people who request for police rescue services. They come from all social classes, although the poor, the unstructured and those in social distress are more likely to call on the police than others. More vulnerable, they often live in a more conflict-ridden and less secure environments. They may be single women, the elderly, young households in difficulty, or simply individuals who no longer know who to talk to. When things aren’t going well, when there are too many problems, when emotions are running high, when grief is too heavy, we call 17. When loneliness, anxiety and a feeling of insecurity can no longer be stifled in the silence of the night, we express to policemen what we couldn’t say to those around us.