Every parent’s nightmare became a reality on Sunday evening when a six-year-old girl went missing after her family’s vehicle was stolen outside a strip mall in North Battleford, prompting an Amber Alert.
Thankfully, she was found safe on Monday morning but the girl’s mother is now facing backlash on social media, after leaving her daughter unattended in the running and unlocked Mercedes SUV.
But many are coming to her defence, saying while it’s not a recommended practice, it’s not uncommon for parents to leave their child inside a vehicle while they run a quick errand.
Even though it’s just speculation at this point, RCMP say the stolen vehicle was most likely a crime of opportunity.
“Unfortunately, we have seen an increase in auto thefts in Saskatchewan in the past few years,” SGI spokesperson, Tyler McMurchy said. “In the past five years, SGI has seen a 46 per cent increase in the number of auto theft claims that have been reported to us.”
While nearly half those vehicles had the keys inside, in this case, the stolen vehicle was equipped with a keyless entry system.
“The biggest myth with the keyless entry vehicle is that you have to have the key fob with you in order to drive the vehicle away and that’s not true — you don’t have to have the key fob with you. You can drive for hours with that vehicle until you shut it off or run out of fuel,” Ron Wilson with the Alberta Motor Association said.
Because the SUV had half a tank of gas, it prompted Amber Alerts in Manitoba and Alberta. While it’s a cautionary tale for parents, Regina police say although there are laws in place to ensure a child’s safety, there is no specific law when it comes to leaving a child in a vehicle and RCMP say they aren’t looking at charges.
“That’s not the focus at all right now today,” Cpl. Rob King with Saskatchewan RCMP said. “The focus was finding her and getting her back. The focus now shifts to finding who is responsible for taking the vehicle in the first place.”
As the investigation continues, many are breathing a sigh of relief, thankful the family is reunited. With winter fast-approaching, police are warning everyone not to leave their vehicles running unattended, no matter what’s inside.