Peel Regional Police have released samples of calls made to dispatchers on the day an Amber Alert was issued for 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar, who was later found dead, as part of a report on misuse of the 911 system.
“This is an invasion of my privacy,” a resident reportedly told a call taker.
“No one can watch TV until the child is found. This will destroy our program. You can’t take away TV completely — it has to be secondary,” another caller reportedly said.
Rajkumar died on Feb. 14, which was also her 11th birthday. She was found dead in her father’s home near Hansen Road North and Crawford Drive in Brampton after an Amber Alert was issued.
Officers said Rajkumar was out with her father for her birthday and was supposed to be dropped off to her mother at a predetermined time. Police said Rajkumar’s mother contacted police at around 7 p.m. due to concern about her daughter’s safety and a parental abduction investigation was launched.
Roopesh Rajkumar, Riya’s father, was arrested in Oro-Medonte, north of Toronto, just after midnight on Feb. 15. The arrest came shortly after a resident called police after hearing details of the accused’s vehicle through the Amber Alert. Roopesh was taken to hospital with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was charged with first-degree murder, but he died from his injuries on Feb. 20.
The Amber Alert was issued late on Feb. 14 by Ontario Provincial Police at the request of officers in Peel Region. In the report on 911 system usage, which was received by the Peel Police Services Board on Friday, Insp. Joseph Paolini said the alert resulted in a “significant increase” in calls to 911.
“While a number of citizens called in with information they felt might assist the investigation, many members of the public deliberately called 911 to voice their displeasure at receiving the Amber Alert at such a late hour,” he wrote.
“It should be noted that calls complaining about the Amber Alert continued to be received by [Peel Regional Police] on both 911 and through switchboard well into the day on Feb. 15. [Peel Regional Police] also received a number of calls from the public to thank the police for their service.”
The report said that of the 208 calls to 911 in Peel Region between 11 p.m. on Feb. 14 and 3 a.m. on Feb. 15, more than two and a half hours after the Amber Alert was terminated, 89 calls — or 43 per cent — were considered to be “misuse of the 911 system.” Police personnel conducted a review of call recordings and transcript excerpts were included in the report.
“How can I make a complaint about you guys abusing the national emergency system?” a caller reportedly said.
“She’s with her father. I don’t think this is a national emergency,” another resident reported said.
Const. Harinder Sohi told Global News Friday evening that the calls are “unfortunate” and said the positive aspects of an Amber Alert outweigh the inconvenience some may feel.
“People calling in to our 911 system that night were tying up resources. We have a limited number of communicators that can deal with all these calls coming in, and unfortunately there were other emergencies that were also taking place at the same time,” he said.
Sohi added that Peel police received more 911 calls after an Amber Alert was issued at the request of York Regional Police on Tuesday for a five-year-old girl who was taken by her father from her Markham school. The alert was cancelled a short time later after the pair were spotted at a Markham business. The father was taken into custody but was later released without charges.
“Thankfully, in that case, everything worked out OK,” he noted.
Peel police said calls to 911 in 2018 have increased dramatically compared to 2016, and so have the number of “inappropriate calls.”
In 2016, there were more than 319,000 calls. That number jumped to more than 365,000 in 2017 and there were more than 430,000 calls in 2018. Looking at the same period when it comes to “inappropriate” 911 calls, there were more than 91,000 in 2016. That increased to more than 130,000 calls in 2017 and more than 182,000 in 2018.
“The inappropriate use of 911 calls in an ongoing concern for [Peel Regional Police] and all police services across North America,” Paolini wrote in his report.
He said the service is continually trying to push its awareness efforts, noting research is being conducted on creating a three-digit number for non-emergency police calls.