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Mother charged after allegedly leaving child alone in vehicle

EDMONTON – A 33-year-old mother is facing charges after allegedly leaving her five-year-old child alone in a running vehicle for about 30 minutes.

The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Child at Risk Response Team responded to a call at approximately 7:20 p.m. on August 15 from a concerned citizen who allegedly witnessed the boy sitting alone in the running vehicle in a toy store parking lot near Calgary Trail and 39 Avenue.

When the Child at Risk Response Team arrived, the vehicle was gone. Fortunately, police say, a citizen took photographs of the vehicle and the license plate.

After their investigation, police believe the five-year-old was secured in a back seat but managed to undo his seat belt and move to the front of the vehicle, where he was revving the engine.

“Luckily our citizens stayed with the car, and they observed the child was originally in the back seat, unbuckled himself, and moved to the front seat where he then began revving the motor,” explained Sgt. Gary Wilits.

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“At times the child was viewed sitting on the edge of the door, kind of Dukes of Hazard style, half in and out of the vehicle.”

Police say the boy was left alone for about 30 minutes while the mother was shopping.

“Although the windows were left down in 20 degree weather, leaving a child alone in a vehicle is simply not safe,” said Willits.

“The child being unsupervised was the big concern for us,” he added.

“The big thing is supervision, that’s where we’re running into problems: kids wandering away from vehicles, kids being exposed to potential theft of auto, abduction of a child, crimes against children – we know these things are happening.”

The 33-year-old mother has been charged with abandoning a child. She has also been charged with willfully causing a child to be in need of intervention under the Child Youth Enhancement Act.

She cannot be identified in order to protect the child.

Edmonton police estimate that 14 charges have been laid in similar incidents this spring and summer, and at least two of them were criminal charges.

They receive about four or five calls a week reporting children alone in vehicles, but they say, situations don’t always result in charges, and Edmontonians are being very vigilant in reporting these cases.

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In the August 15 incident, Willits says approximately five people waited in the parking lot until police arrived.

Global News spoke to several parents at the same parking lot on Thursday.

“I would never leave them… it’s not safe,” said Stephaunia Halle, mother to five-year-old Jacob and three-year-old Ariel. “Kids don’t know what to do when they’re by themselves, I would never leave him alone, or her.”

Halle has heard about the number of charges laid this summer related to children left alone in vehicles and she’s horrified.

“It’s sickening actually, just to think of them being in a car, especially in the summer heat. This summer’s been so hot. Not even an animal would be left in a vehicle with us.”

Garry Dale, a father to two young boys, agrees.

“We do not leave them in vehicles… if it’s a 30 minute stop in or a 30 second stop in. We don’t leave our kids in the vehicle at all. It’s our policy. Too many things happen to children and we don’t want anything to happen to our kids.”

“It’s just not a place to leave a child,” he adds.

However, Willits says not everyone shares that view.

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“We’ve had other parents who think we’re blowing it out of proportion and don’t see a problem with it at all.”

Dale hopes the charges send a message.

“I hope society learns off it. I hope other parents can learn off something like that and not leave their children alone. I’m glad people are getting charged with this, because it puts awareness out there.”

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