Amber Alert baby's dad won't be charged for leaving child in running car

Toronto police say they will not lay charges against a father who left his child alone in a running vehicle, which someone stole minutes later.

Toronto police rule out charges after looking into father's actions

Vakil Yosufi tells reporters he left his baby in the car as it was still running in front of Dr. Flea's flea market in Rexdale. 1:26

Toronto police say they will not lay charges against a father who left his child alone in a running vehicle, which someone stole minutes later.

Const. Allyson Douglas-Cook said investigators have determined the father had not been negligent in his care of the child, who was found safe hours later.

Vakil Yosufi told reporters Sunday he had planned to leave his child in the vehicle, with keys in the ignition, for just a few minutes.

"I just left the baby in the car and walked away and somebody came and grabbed it," Yosufi said, after police found his child Sunday night. "By the time I tried to get him, it was all gone."

Police questioned Yosufi about why the child was left alone in the first place, saying they needed to corroborate the dad's story with evidence from the area near Dr. Flea's flea market, at Albion Road and Highway 27.

Police searching for thief

After investigators issued an Amber Alert, a member of the public later recognized the car with the child inside, and the baby was eventually reunited with the family.

Police are still looking for the car thief, who could face negligence-related charges for leaving the child alone in the car for someone to find. Those are the same type of charges the father could have faced, police said.

"It's not only what you do, it's also steps that you're not taking to prevent something from happening," said Victor Kwong, media relations officer for the Toronto Police Service.

He said police are reviewing surveillance tape from the area and talking to witnesses.

"We're investigating to see what exactly took place in between the time that the car got stolen and a few seconds before that."

When is it OK to leave a child in a car?

Most major police outlets in Canada say there is no specific criminal law that prohibits adults from leaving children alone in cars, but there are applicable clauses under traffic acts and child welfare rules.

The resultant patchwork makes charges related to leaving children alone in cars difficult to track and measure.  

In Quebec, there is a rule in the road safety code specifying that a child younger than seven years old cannot be left alone in a vehicle. The fine is $60.

In Edmonton, police have announced several charges against parents for leaving children alone in cars in recent years. Investigators there say it's never OK to leave a child alone in a vehicle. They launched a campaign called "a vehicle is not a babysitter" in 2013, describing the dangers.

In Halifax, a regional police spokeswoman said she knew of only one case in 2015 where a man was charged with criminal negligence and abandoning a child for leaving a child in a vehicle.

RCMP headquarters say they don't know how common such charges are countrywide because they don't gather those specific statistics.

'A decision parents have to make'

In Ontario, Sunday's Amber Alert case echoes a similar problem just three months earlier: police considered charging a mother in December after she left two children in a vehicle with the keys in the ignition and went shopping.

Family and friends attend a funeral for a two-year-old Milton, Ont., boy who died of heat-related causes after being left inside a car in 2013. (Linda Ward/CBC)
Toronto police say they treat each incident on a case-by-case basis.  

"You hear that a baby was stolen in a running car and there might be more to the case," said Kwong.

"As a parent, there's been times that you leave your kid in just to dart in, dart back out.… It's a decision parents have to make and you as a parent have to stand by whatever may take place."

In 2013, a two-year-old boy in Milton, Ont., died after he was left in a car alone outside his home during a heat wave.

Around the same time, a toddler in Edmonton died after she was playing near an unlocked vehicle and got stuck inside. 

The Canada Safety Council estimates that between four and six children across the country die after they are left alone in vehicles every year.

With files from The Canadian Press


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