York Regional Police (YRP) are once again dealing with a flood of complaints after an Amber Alert was issued for two missing boys and their grandfather.
At 3 a.m. Thursday an Amber Alert was issued to cellphones across Ontario detailing information that a two- and four-year-old boys along with their 70-year-old grandfather were missing.
The three were last seen at a Newmarket mall Wednesday afternoon and police could not find them for more than 12 hours.
“We know that 3 a.m. wake-up call on everyone’s phone might have been an inconvenience and I can guarantee you our call-takers have been hearing it ever since it went off. People calling 911 to complain about it. Some quite vicious with their complaints,” Cst. Andy Pattenden, media relations for YRP, told Global News.
“We don’t take the Amber Alert system lightly.”
The three were located about 60 kilometres away from where they were last seen in York Region, on Lake Shore Boulevard in Toronto at 4:30 a.m. by a Toronto police officer on duty.
People were quick to criticize the use of the system on social media. One person on Twitter said: “The cops found him. It wasn’t a result of the Amber Alert system at all.”
Another commented on the distance: “I’m glad that we here in Ottawa, were able to help find them. That annoying wake up call at 3 in the morning was sure worth it.”
Another user said: “I’ll vote for anyone in Ontario next election who promises to stop #AmberAlert.”
“I had turned off my Amber Alert and still got the alert. With all do respect, don’t hack my phone with the alerts. I turned them off for a reason, respect that. Sincerely, everyone else who doesn’t want the #AmberAlert,” wrote another frustrated user.
Toronto police tweeted in the morning urging the public to stop calling in complaints:
“We have been receiving dozens of complaint calls. Please do not block 9-1-1 lines with non-emergencies.”
The Ontario Provincial Police issued a release Thursday morning also to remind people to stop calling 911 to complain about Amber Alerts.
“The decision to utilize the Ontario Amber Alert is based on established criteria, and is not taken lightly,” the release said.
The OPP said in 2019, there have been five Amber Alerts issued so far. They said four helped to bring the children/child home safe and one helped apprehend a suspect.
“The OPP recognizes the inconvenience the alert may have caused, but will not apologize for using all of the tools available to help locate a child.”
Other police jurisdictions have also had to deal with Amber Alert complaints, including Peel Regional Police, who spoke out heavily in a case where an 11-year-old missing girl was found dead.
However, there are also posts by social media users commending the use of the Amber Alert system. One woman wrote: “Thank you for sending out the Amber Alert, no matter what the hour. The safety of children trumps an inconvenient wake-up time.”
Another twitter user said those, “spewing abusive rantings at the operators… should be charged with mischief. You people should be ashamed.”
YRP stood by its statement that the system does work and said it will continue to use it as a tool in their investigations.
“The real problem is they’re tying up the phone lines, tying up 911 and emergency services to call and complain. That’s not what it’s there for. Those lines need to be open for tips to come in and information,” said Pattenden.
“Plus let’s keep in mind, there’s a whole region here where there’s other emergencies going on so to tie up all those resources to complain, it’s disheartening really.”