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ECU911 security system suffers protest damage as agency receives record number of calls

Ecuador’s ECU911 emergency response system suffered extensive damage to its technical equipment during the anti-government protests from October 3 to 13. According to Juan Zapata, ECU911 director, 80 cameras were destroyed nationwide during the period.

The ECU911 video monitoring station and call center in Quito.

In addition to the cameras, dozens of control boxes and wiring panels were damaged or destroyed and two ECU911 monitoring facilities were vandalized. The agency estimates it will cost $215,000 to make repairs.

Zapata says that ECU911 received a record 470,800 calls during the protest period, most of them reporting vandalism, road closures and calls for ambulances. “This has been the busiest time in our history and fortunately, we were able to handle all the calls,” he said. “The bad news is that because of the crisis situation and road closures we were not able to dispatch assistance to many of the requests.”

Prosecutors are already reviewing video from security cameras and identifying protesters involved in violent acts or vandalism, Zapata says. “We have very sophisticated facial recognition software and are able to match images with names in cases of illegal acts,” he adds. “In the case of the destroyed cameras, we have pictures of the people who threw the objects that caused the damage.”

Although most of the destroyed cameras are in Quito, others are in Guayaquil, Cuenca and Ambato. All will be replaced, ECU911 says.

Another focus of prosecutors, Zapata says, is identifying those who attacked ambulances during the protests. “These are particularly odious crimes and the state plans aggressive prosecution of individuals who committed them since this endangered the lives of dozens of patients who needed medical attention during the protests,” he said.

According to ECU911, 35 ambulances were attacked from October 3 to 13 with 14 sustaining damage that removed them from service.

4 thoughts on “ECU911 security system suffers protest damage as agency receives record number of calls

  1. Indeed attacking ambulances is stupid, but in the case of Quito the attacks began after an ambulance was caught on video being used to deliver boxes of teargas canisters to the police. That set off a flood of messages on social media that the ambulances were being used to bypass the roadblocks that had previously been letting them through in good faith, as you would.

    As a former ICRC official, I should point out that falsely using Red Cross emblems to transport weapons is legally codified as a war crime in almost every country in the Western World. The ambulance in question was from the Ministry of Public Health, but governments would do well to keep in mind that gaining a short-term tactical advantage by disguising security forces as emergency medical personnel puts all first responders in danger.

    The Colombian army used one of their helicopters disguised as a Red Cross helicopter to rescue Ingrid Betancourt from FARC captivity. While the motive of rescuing someone being held hostage for years was noble, the end result is that the Red Cross was no longer allowed into rebel controlled areas for fear that they were disguised special forces. The Red Cross was the only medical service available to the people in those areas, but they had to pull out all of their volunteers because the government made them a target. Uribe was never prosecuted.

    Of course all this could be fixed by legislation. It wouldn’t be difficult for the National Assembly to pass a law making it a criminal offense to use emergency medical services and their markings for non-medical purposes. However, I doubt they’d do that because then the government loses a tactical advantage and they’d lose the opportunity to garner sympathy when ambulances are inevitably attacked.

    1. God Jason! I have NO words to describe what you’ve made me feel….I’m…..speechless. And so very, very sad.

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