Monday 29 July 2019


If you click your mouse over the underlined words you will get more information.                                      

In 1996, 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was kidnapped from Arlington, Texas and brutally murdered. Her death had a profound impact on her community. In the wake of this tragedy, an emergency alert system was developed to facilitate the rapid distribution of information to the public about child abduction incidents. The system, named in remembrance of Amber Hagerman, was initially a voluntary partnership between law enforcement agencies and media broadcasters to send out emergency alerts to the public when a child was abducted or missing and believed to be in imminent danger. Alas, the girl’s murderer was never found.

The information provided below in this article  is intended as general information only. It is not intended, and should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice.

The Amber Alert system provides the public with immediate and up-to-date information about child abduction or a child missing via widespread media broadcasts on television, radio and wireless devices by soliciting the public’s assistance with the safe and swift return of an abducted child or missing child.

The goal of an Amber Alert is to involve as many community members as possible in the search for an abducted child or missing child — each community member becoming the eyes and the ears of law enforcement.

In Canada, Amber Alert programs are provincially operated. While most provinces have Amber Alert committees, only law enforcement can issue Amber Alerts that are sent out through the Alert Ready emergency alert system, reaching Canadians through a number of mediums (e.g., cell phone, television, and  radio. Strangely enough, they aren’t sent over land phones for obvious reasons. They would block emergency calls.

Criteria for issuing an Amber Alert may vary from province to province, but basic requirements include:

  • The child is under the age of 18;
  • A belief that the child has been abducted or missing;
  • A belief that the child is in grave danger;
  • Information is available that may help locate the child and/or the abductor (e.g., description of the child, the suspect, or the vehicle driven by the abductor); and
  • abduction the child is missing. That the alert be issued within a reasonable amount of time from the moment of the Alert was announced.

Issuing an Amber Alert can be a very important tool in helping to locate a child and a the suspect. It is important however to remember, that these alerts are not appropriate in every circumstance and their continued effectiveness depends on ensuring they are only used in cases that meet the criteria outlined above, and where time is of the essence.

Despite plenty of media coverage on its futility and public disgust of callers complaining of the Alerts that are tying up 911 operators Complainers are still clogging emergency lines across Ontario to gripe about being woken up even when a child’s life may be in danger.

Around midnight on July 24th 2019 the father of a child broke into a house in Brantford. Ontario while accomplices distracted the mother. The man then assaulted and threatened the mother before grabbing their two-year-old son and fleeing in a getaway car. He was later captured and the child was returned to his mother.

An hour after the alert was broadcasted, the child was found safe which  then triggering another mass notification being sent to Ontarians’ phones.

I saw this Alert while I was watching TV the same morning. What upset me was that the Amber Alert remained on the television for an entire hour. The Alert blocked out the voices in the television program I was watching making it impossible foe me  to watch the program because the voice attached to the Alert blocked out the voices in the program.

I don’t object to the written portion of the Alert being posted at the bottom of the television program but when the voice of the Alert blocks out the sound from the program, in my opinion, this is really annoying, especially when the Alerts last an hour.

Three hours later just after 3 a.m. a province-wide mass notification was sent to Ontarians’ cell phones, waking many people up. This led to yet another round of angry people tying up 911 operators across the province. There were approximately 100 calls in the 911 queue, over forty were confirmed to be from people complaining. One woman in particular advised that the only way the Amber Alert ‘problem’ was going to stop would be to flood 911 with calls. She then called back a number of times.  Her act was criminal and she should be prosecuted.

people who had been woken up by the shrill alarm that goes with it The Alert meant a loss of sleep for potentially millions of, leading to a growing call for the Alert system to be overhauled.

When an emergency operator is unavailable during high call periods since people are complaining about the Alerts, the calls continue to ring indefinitely until an operator becomes available. By then, the emergency has become a disaster because the police couldn’t be reached on the phone. That is why it has been suggested that such callers complaining about the Alerts should be fined as a deterrent.

The latest Amber Alert comes on the heels of a petition calling for the Ontario government to make a new law enabling police to fine 911 abusers that is similar to an Alberta law allowing police to slap first-offenders with a $5,000 fine, and $10,000 for repeat offenders.

Unlike Americans, Canadians are unable to opt-out of emergency notifications on their smartphones. Even so, there are ways you can give yourself a sleep that is uninterrupted by Amber Alerts.

Some models don’t emit sounds when they’re on silent or vibrate or are in the do-not-disturb mode, others can be overridden, according to Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. 

Depending on the device, some newer Android phones offer Canadian users an emergency alert opt-out option in their notification settings. The only foolproof way is to turn it off completely.     

That is what I do just before I go to bed. If my cellphone got the message at three in the morning, what could I do to look out for the abducted or missing child at that particular hour especially if child was taken or missing from another city?  

University of Nevada study that was conducted over a decade ago determined that Amber Alerts accomplished far less than claimed by law enforcement. It determined that most cases involved a family member and played no role in the return of abducted children. The majority of its success was in child custody fights in which there was, statistically, a lower risk of harm to the child.

Saskatchewan’s Zach Miller disagrees completely with those findings. In 2006, he was kidnapped by a stranger as a 10-year-old. Twenty-four hours after he went missing, police decided to issue the first Amber Alert in Saskatchewan’s history. After a passerby noticed the vehicle reported in the alert, Miller and another boy were rescued. In all, Miller spent 72 hours being held captive by  the notorious pedophile Peter Whitmore. If the Alert had been sounded earlier, the boys might have been rescued sooner than they were.

Alberta became the first Canadian province to use the system in 2002. Today, each province maintains control on how the system is used.

The U.S. system relies on different tiers of alarms. The most serious is called a Presidential Alert and can’t be blocked. Other alarms are used for less dire situations and can be targeted to specific geographic locations.

Some of the nations in Europe have similar Alert systems.

I believe that the day will come when pictures of the abductee and the perpetrator and his or her car will be shown on TV

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