Winnipeg police say an Amber Alert sent this week over a suspected child abduction led to many good tips from Manitobans looking to help, but it also brought out to more than few calls — to 911 — from people complaining about getting the alert.
Not surprisingly, police are asking people not to do that.
“When you call 911 you are tying up an emergency line that someone may need to have their life saved,” said police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver.
“You’re potentially putting somebody’s life at risk.”
The Amber Alert was sent to phones, radios and televisions across the province shortly before 8:10 p.m. Tuesday, a few hours after police say a two-year-old boy was taken without authorization by his mother following a supervised visit.
Within an hour of the alert, police say the boy’s mother turned herself and the child in to the Amaranth RCMP station.
While Carver says police were inundated with 911 calls from people who thought they may have seen the mother’s vehicle, others called the emergency line to register concerns over being disturbed by the alert.
“Believe it or not somebody thought they were too loud, some people didn’t like the fact that it was interrupting what they were doing,” Carver said of the calls.
“A two-year-old was safe at the end of it, and if you can’t give up a little, tiny bit of your time to make sure that happens, then you’ve got to rethink what’s important to you.
“If you’re bothered by that I think you’ve got to look in the mirror.”
On Wednesday police announced the mother has been charged with abduction and has since been released on an undertaking.
On Tuesday night Carver told media the Amber Alert played a big part in the successful outcome.
“The mother had received the Amber Alert as well and receiving the Amber Alert caused her to make the decision to head to Amaranth detachment and bring herself and the child to RCMP,” he said.
Carver said it’s the first time Winnipeg police have used the Amber Alert system, and the decision wasn’t made lightly.
He said certain criteria have to be met before police send an alert. First of all, he says a child has to have been abducted — not just reported missing — and police also have to have information about a suspect vehicle.
“But even if it meets the criteria there’s a lot of thought and analytical work being done to decide if it was the right choice,” Carver explained, adding he was part of the team that worked to make the decision Tuesday night.
“We realize that it causes disruptions in people’s lives, we also realize that if it’s used too easily, its impact can be less.
“So when we chose to do that …. people need to know that it’s really important — we’re worried about the safety of a child.”
–With files from The Canadian Press