Police respond to 'disappointing' complaints by public over Amber Alert
After receiving numerous complaints about being disturbed by Amber Alerts related to a murdered 11-year-old child, Peel Regional Police are urging people to have some perspective.
Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, allegedly abducted his daughter Riya after he took her out for her birthday Thursday afternoon; the young girl was later found dead at a home west of Toronto.
Peel Regional Police spokesperson Danny Marttini told reporters Friday morning that the Amber Alert -- issued after 11 p.m -- led to the arrest of the murder suspect because someone had seen a car with a suspect’s licence plate.
But Marttini wanted people to appreciate the gravity of situation after police received complaints from people upset that the Amber Alert had woken them up when the emergency alert came across cellphones and TV stations.
“I feel for everyone but given the circumstances – I think it did lead to the arrest of the individual so I think that’s what we have to focus on,” she said, adding police were still receiving complaints hours after the initial alerts.
“You know, it’s unfortunate when an Amber Alert goes off in the sense that it disrupts people’s lifestyle …but at the same point, we’re talking about a child that was missing and, in this case, the child was found deceased,” Marttini said.
“I think you have to weigh that out,” she said.
Another police spokesperson, Const. Akhil Mooken, shared those sentiments when he tweeted Friday morning: “I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communications bureau complaining.”
“The immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered,” he also wrote. “Tragically this incident did not have the outcome we were all hoping for.”
The Amber Alert was issued several hours after Rajkumar failed to return his daughter, Riya, to her mother. Marttini said that as soon as they had located the suspect and the child’s body, they set out to cancel the Amber Alerts.
“That’s all about we can do,” she said.
People angry with the late night Amber Alert notifications drew the ire of commenters online. Several people called out those who had apparently been calling into 911 to complain.
One angry person on Twitter said: “The fact that people were calling 911 to COMPLAIN is absolutely appalling. So you lost 10 min of sleep, an 11-year-old girl lost her life.”
Another person tweeted: “It takes a village to raise and live in this world these days. I for one will gladly be part of that. Lives are too precious.”
Jenn Neville-Lake, the mother of three children who were killed by a convicted impaired driver, responded to the Peel Regional Police’s tweet. She wrote: “I remember very well that sick feeling of dread when my kids were late getting dropped off and I couldn’t find out why. The fear and crying. The screaming.”
“I would have woken up everyone to find them,” she stated.
But Peel Regional Police weren’t the only law enforcement agency forced to deal with fallout from the Amber Alert. Winnipeg police also fielded a number of 911 calls related to the Amber Alert, which extended into regions of Manitoba.
“People were either confused and said, ‘I don’t know what this message is,’ or ‘why is my phone making this noise?’ [But] a lot of the calls were simply just complaints,” said Winnipeg police Const. Tammy Skrabek. Winnipeg police criticized this influx of 911 calls in a press release, suggesting that the number of complaints may have prevented legitimate emergency calls from getting through.
According to Skrabek, it’s up to the issuing police service to determine what type of reach an Amber Alert should have across the country.
“We have to respect the fact that they thought this was an appropriate range,” she added.Our communications bureau is receiving numerous calls to 9-1-1, complaining about the late hour of the Amber Alert. As a direct result of someone receiving the alert, we were able to locate the suspect & his vehicle. The system works. Thank you to all those that called with tips.
Rajkumar's father was charged with first-degree murder on Friday.
With files from Nicole Bogart