Hamilton

'Stop harassing citizens': Brantford police receive angry response to Amber Alert

The child was ultimately found safe in Hamilton and returned to her mother, but police say complaints from the public have continued to roll in by email and through calls to 911, and dispatch.

1 one person has called to complain 11 separate times and is now being investigated

Brantford police say they've been inundated with complaints after issuing an Amber Alert early Thursday morning. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

Stop unnecessary and health damaging alerts to people asleep. Respectfully, do your job and stop harassing citizens. What in the **** are you thinking?

These are just a sample from the flood of angry messages Brantford, Ont., police have received after issuing an Amber Alert overnight Thursday to help find a two year-old girl who investigators say was abducted by her estranged father.

The child was ultimately found safe in Hamilton and returned to her mother, but the police service says complaints from the public have continued to roll in by email and through calls to 911, and dispatch.

One person has even called them about the alert 11 times and is now being investigated for a potential public mischief complaint, according to police.

The response has been so overwhelming, Insp. Scott Williams with the investigative support branch issued a statement addressing concerns about the use of Amber Alerts. He described them as a way to quickly spread the word about an abducted child who may be in danger.

"The main objective of the Amber Alert is always the safe return of the child," he explained.

"Time is critical in saving the lives of abducted children, and with time comes a growing geography of concern. Once a child is abducted there is no way to determine the exact location the abductor is headed."

A team of Hamilton officers arrive at a town home on the Mountain Thursday in search of a missing two-year-old girl. She was ultimately found safe and returned to her mother. (Andrew Collins/CBC)

Williams says the investigating began before the alert went out and continued after it was issued. Police follow strict guidelines that ensure Amber Alerts are used appropriately, he said, adding the decision to send an emergency broadcast to the entire province is never taken lightly.

"Brantford Police Service stands by our decision to connect ... activate an Amber Alert," Williams wrote.

Other messages police say they've received include the following:

  • Why did you have to send two Amber Alerts for the same event? My phone received (them) at 3:04 a.m. and 3:36 a.m.
  • You guys are absolutely crazy with your Amber Alerts. I live six hours drive away, in another province and you feel waking me up at 3 a.m. is required.
  • Perhaps if you do your job, we could sleep.
  • Yes, I leave my phone on, but not because I want to be harassed by law enforcement, because I have elderly parent who may have a legitimate need for help.
  • Please, please work on technology to stop unnecessary and health damaging alerts to people asleep. Soon people will find solutions that negate any good that might come from Amber Alert program.
  • 3 o'clock in the **** morning- no- I haven't seen her. This went off five **** times. I am in Oshawa. What in the **** are you thinking
  • Please stop sending the AMBER alerts to our phones in Ottawa. Since the abduction is in Hamilton, there is no way that the suspect is up in Ottawa, six hours away. We have things to do in the morning and this is the second time this night that the phone has woken us up, and it seems Brantford Police Services appear disproportionately on our phones here.

The broadcasts are federally mandated and go out to wireless devices across the province every time police issue an alert concerning a missing child believed to be in imminent danger.

Backlash has followed every Amber Alert issued in Ontario this year, though the broadcasts also have plenty of supporters.

A petition has even been launched calling for the Ontario government to fine people who call emergency dispatchers to complain about broadcasts of Amber Alerts.

Brantford police put out reminder Thursday warning residents that contacting police to complain takes resources away from investigations.

Police also say that despite the discouraging response, they don't plan on backing down from using future alerts if necessary.

"When a child is abducted, it is our duty to utilize any and all resources available to facilitate a lawful investigation, and to locate the child as soon as possible," read a statement. "We expect the public to support our stance."

with files from the Canadian Press

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