Kitchener-Waterloo

Police get multiple 911 calls complaining about Amber Alert on cellphones

People called Waterloo regional police Tuesday to complain about an early morning Amber Alert.

'Be patient and understanding that these are used in extreme situations,' WRPS Const. Dietrich says

A London-based anesthesiologist said he was involved in a life-threatening emergency in May when the Amber Alert went off on all the cell phones of the medical team, making communication nearly impossible. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

There were more than 10 calls made to Waterloo regional police Tuesday morning complaining about an early morning Amber Alert.

An alert was issued for a missing three-year-old boy around 5 a.m. That alert went out to cellphones across the province. 

Const. Ashley Dietrich said more than 10 calls were made to both 911 and the police non-emergency line to complain about the alert, and calls were still coming in Tuesday around noon.

"Amber alerts are taken very seriously. They aren't meant to be a disruption or a distraction, they are used for when police believe that a child has been abducted and is in immediate danger," she said.

People might be annoyed by the alert, but she says "be patient and understanding that these are used in extreme situations."

She reminded people not to call 911 for non-emergencies.

She said they try to deal with every call but the reality is that people who call to complain about Amber Alerts are tying up the 911 lines and that "does impose a risk to somebody else who might be in a state of emergency."

Boy and mother found safe

The alert went out after a three-year-old Sudbury boy and his mother went missing. The two were found safe in Toronto.

Toronto police tweeted around 7 a.m. they had also received a number of calls from citizens "to complain about being awakened by the Amber Alert."

It's not the first time this year people have called police to complain about Amber Alerts.

In February, people called police saying they were "trying to watch the Leafs game" when an alert was issued for Riya Rajkumar by Peel regional police. The 11-year-old girl was later found dead in her father's home within an hour of the alert.

Riya's father, Roopesh Rajkumar, later died in hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In May 2018, one of the first uses of the mobile emergency alert system, people complained after an alert about a missing boy in Thunder Bay popped up on phones across the province. That boy was found safe.

Kaitlynn Dunn, a spokesperson with the Greater Sudbury Police Service, said they also received calls from angry people on Tuesday.

"A child's safety does trump somebody's sleep," Dunn said. "We felt it was necessary to put out the Amber Alert in order to ensure he was safely found and it did just that: he was safely found."

Sudbury police said the following criteria to issue an Amber Alert may include:

  • The child is under 18 years old.
  • There is a belief the child has been abducted.
  • There is information available that may help locate the child and/or abductor.
  • The alert be issued within a reasonable amount of time from the moment of the abduction.

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