Yesterday, Peel Regional Police issued an Amber Alert for an 11-year-old girl. The alert was sent out late at night - after 11 pm - and has sent some Canadians into a tizzy. As an American, this is the first time I’ve seen Canadians act so rudely in my entire life! More people called or tweeted at the RP to whine about the alert waking them from sleep than was expected. As the police communications officer reiterated, those complaining about a call to help a missing child lack perspective. Friday morning’s Facebook feed lit up with the hot topic: what in the heck was that Amber Alert about? Why did it wake me up even when my phone was turned to silent?
The History Of Amber Alerts
Although some grumpy Canadians took issue with their Amber Alert system, it’s not actually a Canadian invention! It originated 23 years ago after the kidnapping and murder of a young American girl. Amber Hageman was only nine years old when she was abducted from Arlington, Texas. Unfortunately, Amber did not survive her kidnapping. However, the tragedy prompted Americans to push for an emergency alert system. In child kidnapping cases especially, time is of the essence. The first 48 hours after an abduction are often the most vital for gathering information about the case. Amber Alerts are not just named in memory and honor of Amber Hageman; they are also an acronym. America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.
How Canada Uses Amber Alerts
In Canada, Amber alerts are disseminated via the Canadian emergency warning system, Alert Ready. However, each police department has its own criteria for authorizing an Amber Alert. Some departments follow the laws of the province or their city. This means that, in Canada, the requirements for issuing an Amber Alert might vary from town to town! Generally, Canadian police have stricter measures to avoid unnecessary Amber Alerts.
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Riya Rajkumar’s Kidnapping And Amber Alert
Thursday evening’s Amber Alert was designed to jar people from their routine. Part of the alert involved the license plate number of the car Riya was known to be in. This piece of information turned out to be the tip that helped police find her abductor; her father, Roopesh Rajkumar kidnapped her. He had taken her out for a birthday treat, or so he claimed. When he didn’t return Riya to her mother’s home at the agreed upon time, he called instead. He threatened her mother, saying that he was going to do something to hurt Riya and himself. This type of personal family abduction makes up 60% of Amber alerts - where the kidnapper is known to the victim. The Amber alert was issued late in the evening but passed sufficient rigor to justify the emergency. Ultimately, the person who found Roopesh’s car had received and noticed the Amber alert.
Unfortunately, Riya’s case does not have a happy ending. Her father was found on the run, but Riya’s lifeless body was found in a residence. She was only eleven years old.
Emergency Amber Alerts Save Children
Amber alerts can and do save lives. Although this wasn’t the case for Riya, countless other children have been helped by the rapid response triggered by the AMBER alert system. Officer Akhil Mooken, Media Relations For Peel Regional Police tweeted:
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….The system works.
At the end of the day, sleep-deprived humans can quickly become grumpy humans. My guess is that most of those Amber alert complainers would quickly change their tune if their own family was involved. It’s important to keep perspective: while an Amber Alert might be waking us up late at night, somewhere a mother can’t sleep while her child is missing.
To learn more about Amber alerts, visit the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children.