Late last week, an Amber Alert was issued in Ontario after a four-year-old girl went missing in Toronto.
The parents of the girl had placed the child in their car, which was left running in the family’s driveway, as they went inside to retrieve their other child, but came back to their daughter and car both missing. The car was later found not too far from the home with the child safely inside and the car running.
Following this Amber Alert, it seems the rate of child abduction is on the rise in Canada once again. This creates the discussion of how much more aware parents need to be when it comes to the safety of their children. It’s well known that Amber Alerts are taken seriously by the public as they are highly shared over social media, but the care of our children shouldn’t be dependent on these alerts, but rather parents allowing for more safety of their child.
Canada began to keep statistics on missing children in 1987 — when 57,233 children were reported missing that year. The number has dropped, but not significantly.
In 2015, there were 45,288 reports of missing children in Canada as reported by the RCMP.
The Amber Alert system was established in 1996 in Texas after a nine-year-old girl, Amber Hagerman, went missing. Since then the system has been used across the US and Canada — the first use in Canada came in Alberta in late 2002.
Between 2003 and 2012, Canada issued 64 Amber Alerts involving 73 abducted children. 70 children were found and returned safely and unfortunately, three died.
Amber Alerts are urgent public postings that are activated in the case that a child is abducted, however the abduction must meet certain criteria.
The RCMP’s National Missing Children Services lists the following four criterias: the child must be under the age of 18, there must be confirmation that the child has been abducted, police must have sufficient information to make a search for the child possible, such as descriptions of the child, abductor, accomplices or the suspects vehicle, and police must believe the child is in serious danger and be convinced a broadcast will help find the child.
An Amber Alert is most commonly released via television or radio stations — a protocol set up during the Cold War to relay messages from the U.S. president and later it was used to broadcast weather bulletins. At times, a TV program can be completely interrupted due to an Amber Alert to get the attention of viewers and citizens, but it can also simply appear at the bottom of the screen.
Recently, the usage of Amber Alerts has expanded to social media and handheld mobile devices. However, the reason more Amber Alerts are not sent out to meet the number of children abducted each year is due to the fact that repetitive alerts could lead to people not caring, which is unfortunate.
How often do Amber Alerts work?
In 2013, 194 cases involving 243 children, met the Amber criteria (all of those alerts went out across the state on TV and radio channels and 90 per cent via cell phones and social media). Of those 194 cases, 185 resulted in the recovery of a child, however Amber Alerts played a vital role in only 20 per cent of cases. Meaning, whoever helped solve the case didn’t act in response to the alert.
In most cases, children are found because citizens or police recognized the vehicle or the abductor heard the alert and released the child.
That being said, this isn’t a discussion of whether or not Amber Alerts are working. The numbers speak for themselves and the rate of child abduction is too high.
In the case of the recent Amber Alert sent across Ontario last week, it is becoming apparent that parents need to become more cautious and aware of their child’s safety. Leaving your child in a running car even to run inside for a couple seconds could be incredibly dangerous.
Parents need to have an eye on their child at all-times, especially at a young age. In this era of social media and cell phones, we are all way too distracted. Don’t let an Amber Alert be your lesson in finding out how important your child’s safety is.
The idea that sending out more Amber Alerts will cause people to shrug them off is outright ridiculous. However, even that being a conversation completely blows my mind.
Let’s try to decrease these alerts and give our children more attention to allow for better safety and care.