York Regional Police (YRP) say two young children and their grandfather have been found safe in Toronto almost two hours after an Amber Alert was issued.
The alert, which was broadcast just after 3 a.m. ET on Thursday, said the two- and four-year-old boys along with their 70-year-old grandfather were last seen at a Newmarket mall at around 3 p.m. on Wednesday.
YRP said the three were located by police in Toronto on Lake Shore Boulevard (about 60 kilometres away from the mall) at around 4:30 a.m. The trio were reported to be “in good health” and that they were found as a “direct result of the Amber Alert.” Investigators previously said it was believed the children weren’t “taken with malicious intent.”
Police said the man is a Pickering resident and wasn’t familiar with Newmarket. Before the boys and their grandfather were seen at the mall, officers said the man dropped his wife off at a Newmarket plaza at around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“He was asked to go park the car and just drove away,” YRP spokesperson Const. Andy Pattenden told Global News.
YRP first put out a notice after 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday advising the three were missing. The statement issued Thursday morning said officers worked “tirelessly” to try to find the man and the boys and that consultation has been ongoing with Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). But the decision to issue the Amber Alert wasn’t made until “shortly after 3 a.m.”
“It’s a process for us … As new information comes in, as time goes on, we’re in constant communication with the OPP if it even appears as though this may meet the threshold of an Amber Alert,” Pattenden said.
“That communication in ongoing, so as things change in the investigation… our concern heightens. That information is relayed to the OPP and it’s ultimately their decision if the Amber Alert gets issued.
“We don’t take the Amber Alert system lightly. It’s only used in the most severe cases. There’s certain criteria and threshold that needs to be met.”
What are the criteria for issuing Amber Alerts?
Under the OPP guidelines for activating Amber Alerts, a law enforcement agency needs to believe a child under 18 has been abducted and that the child is in danger. The agency must also have descriptive information about the child, the abductor or the vehicle — enough information to allow the investigating agency “to believe that an immediate broadcast alert will help in locating the child.”
If the guidelines are met, the responding police service needs to submit an Amber Alert request form to the OPP. The OPP will then activate the alert on behalf of the requesting police service.
Emergency alerts are then sent out through the National Alert Aggregation and Dissemination System (NAAD). The OPP said the NAAD shares the alerts through cable and satellite companies, over-the-air television stations, radio stations, social media and through cellphone text messages.
— With files from Gabby Rodrigues.