Police say they received 911 calls about people being awoken by Amber Alert
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Friday, February 15, 2019 12:48PM EST
Last Updated Friday, February 15, 2019 5:37PM EST
An Amber Alert that was issued during the desperate search for a missing 11-year-old girl who was later found dead prompted numerous calls to 911 complaining about the timing of the disturbance, Peel Regional Police say.
Police issued an Amber Alert for Riya Rajkumar at around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday after her mother told officers that the girl’s father had made comments indicating that he might do harm to himself or his daughter.
The alert was sent out to mobile devices through Canada’s new mobile emergency alert system.
As a result, some residents were awoken by a series of loud beeps that accompanied a written message that had information about the child, the alleged kidnapper and the vehicle.
Another notification to cancel the Amber Alert was then sent out at 12:30 a.m. after police found Riya Rajkumar dead in a Brampton residence. Rajkumar’s father was arrested in a high-risk takedown on Hwy. 11 near Orillia as a result of a tip from a motorist. He is expected to face charges in his daughter’s death.
“I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communications bureau complaining about receiving an Amber Alert late at night. I appreciate that a lot of people were sleeping but the immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered,” Const. Akhil Mooken said in a message posted to Twitter on Friday morning. “Tragically this incident did not have the outcome we were all hoping for but the suspect was located as a direct result of a citizen receiving the alert and calling 911. The system works.”
Government authorities have been able to deliver emergency alerts to smartphones since April 2018 but other than a test of the system in November, the technology has not received much use.
Only one Amber Alert was issued in all of Ontario in 2018. In that case an eight-year-old boy who went missing in a community near Thunder Bay was found safe.
“This was the first one in the GTA since mobile phones have been included in all of this,” Staff Sgt. Stacey Whaley of the Ontario Provincial Police Amber Alert program told CP24 on Friday afternoon. “It is here to stay, it has to stay, we absolutely need it.”
The Ontario Provincial Police’s criteria for issuing an Amber Alert stipulates that police must believe a child has been abducted and is danger. Police must also have descriptive information about the child, their suspected abductor or the vehicle they could be travelling in.
Whaley said that the alert issued late Thursday night met all the criteria and that anyone who was upset with receiving the message has “their priorities in the wrong place.”
He said that awaking some people is ultimately “a small price to pay” when you are trying to save the life of a child.
“It is absolutely crucial and I would just ask everybody to put themselves in the shoes of a parent,” he said.
Brown says people complaining about alert are ‘jerks’
At the time of the Amber Alert, numerous people took to Twitter to express their concern for the safety of Riya Rajkumar while others complained about the noise of the alert.
Speaking with CP24 on Friday morning, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown accused those people of “being a jerk.”
“If there was even a remote chance that a late night text would provide a clue that would have saved an 11-year-olds life then thank goodness we have the Amber Alert system and anyone complaining frankly is being a jerk,” he said. “Imagine this was a member of your family. Imagine this 11-year-old was your niece or your daughter.”
Brown wasn’t the only one to speak out about complaints regarding the Amber Alert on Friday morning.
Jennifer Neville-Lake, whose three children and father were killed in a drunk driving crash in Vaughan in 2015, took to Twitter to express her dismay.
“I remember very well that sick feeling of dread when my kids were late getting dropped off and I couldn’t get a hold of my parents to find out why. The fear and crying. The screaming. I would have woken up everyone to find them,” she said.
Emergency alerts are issued to phones that are located in a defined geographic area, though it is unclear how wide of an area received the alert issued late Thursday night.
There is no way to opt out of emergency alerts.
Last night’s urgent #AmberAlert may have woken you up - but please don’t call #911 to complain. Someone just called 911 for a 2nd time to reaffirm how upset he was last night. That call tied up a line needed for an emergency. #TrueStory @TPSOperations @torontopolice pic.twitter.com/JxLjFqoaPm— Shawna Coxon (@ShawnaCoxon) February 15, 2019