As It Happens

Ontarians flooded 911 with complaints that Amber Alert woke them up, police say

Within an hour of an Amber Alert being issued for an 11-year-old Brampton girl on Friday, an Ontario 911 centre was deluged with calls from people complaining it woke them up, says Const. Akhil Mooken.

11-year-old girl found dead after alert issue, father charged with 1st-degree murder

Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested on a highway about 130 kilometres north of Brampton around midnight Thursday. His daughter, Riya, was found dead in his basement apartment shortly before his arrest. (Facebook)

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Within an hour of an Amber Alert being issued for an 11-year-old Brampton girl on Friday, an Ontario 911 centre was deluged with calls from people complaining it woke them up, says Const. Akhil Mooken with Peel Regional Police. 

Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested after the alert was issued around 11:30 p.m. ET Thursday in the search for Riya Rajkumar. Her body was found about an hour later in his apartment north of the city. He has been charged with first-degree murder.

While the search for Riya ended in tragedy, Mooken said it was a 911 call stemming from the Amber Alert that helped officers find the girl's remains and arrest the accused. 

Here is part of Mooken's conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Const. Mooken, this story is disturbing on so many levels, but I want to start with the complaints that you got about the Amber Alert. This was to 911 dispatchers, right?

That's just part of the complaints we received. To quantify that, I can say between the hours of 11:36 p.m. when Amber Alert went out to 9 a.m. this morning our 911 centre received a total of 383 calls. 

Out of those 383 calls within the first hour of the Amber Alert going out, we received 124. And the vast majority of those calls were people complaining that the Amber Alert woke them up from their sleep or that it bypassed their do-not-disturb setting.

Peel Const. Akhil Mooken says it was 'disappointing' to receive so many calls from people complaining about Thursday night's Amber Alert in Ontario. (Paul Smith/CBC)

Let's just let this sink in for a second. I mean, people called 911 to complain that they were awakened from their sleep?

That's right. And that's, again, just calls to our 911 centre.

We have our non-emergency number as well ... and they also had a ton of calls where people were complaining and swearing at them about being woken up because they have to go to work in the morning.

To go even further on that, we have our many social media platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as an email option through our website. And through our website, we received over 100 emails.

And I can't even begin to count the number of messages we receive through our social media platforms of people complaining about the system.

Maybe just tell us what you'd like to say to these people who called or wrote to complain. 

You know, I'm a parent myself to a young daughter and it's — I can't even begin to imagine and understand what the mom of Riya is going through.

It's disappointing and upsetting to read some of the comments, to read the emails and the messages that we received about being awoken.

I appreciate that people were sleeping, but the immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people, you know, experienced as a result of this.

You said the Amber Alert went out at 11:30pm. The mother came in to say that she was very concerned about the child being missing and the threats that she'd heard ... at around 7 o'clock. So why wasn't the Amber Alert issued earlier?

There needs to be a certain criteria and certain types of information that we need to be able to provide to the co-ordinators of the Amber Alert system.

And to gather all of that, we had to do an investigation at our local level here and, again, following up on numerous leads and resources, again, available to officers to try and locate them prior to issuing the Amber Alert.

An Amber Alert was issued at 11:36 p.m. ET but cancelled after officers found Riya Rajkumar's body.

And the police went to the father's house just shortly after the concern was issued by the mother. They went there, but didn't force entry into the house. When they did force entry much later in the night, they found her dead in that house. Why didn't they force entry earlier? Why wouldn't they do that right away if there was any concern, even the slightest possibility, that girl is in there and needs help?

There was no indication at the start of this investigation of that she would be in that residence. ... There are several leads that directed our investigators away from the residence that they had to follow up on.

Can you tell us, just so we understand? Because I think people are very concerned. You heard in the press conference, as well, a lot of questions about why didn't they break in. Maybe she was not dead then. Maybe they could have helped her.

Because this is a matter that will be appearing in the court of law, unfortunately I can't get into the specifics of the investigation so as to not compromise the trial proceedings.

Let's go back to this these complaints that you had. Did they yield any results for you, putting out the Amber Alert?

The suspect in this incident, as well as the vehicle, was located as a direct result of a motorist travelling on a roadway in the Barrie area receiving an alert on their cell phone.

The motorist received the alert, then just a few minutes later, saw the vehicle in question and subsequently contacted 911, which directed them to the Ontario Provincial Police.

This is again, when people complain and say, "Well, why did you have to get everybody out of bed? Why didn't you just make the call out to specifically the area?" This is why you do it to a wider zone, right?

We want to make sure we get it out to as many people as possible so that we have more eyes on the road or wherever we may be looking for the people that are in the Amber Alert.

Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from CBC News. Interview produced by Jeanne Armstrong. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.