January 13th marks International Amber Alert Awareness Day, honoring the memory of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas on January 13, 1996. The Amber Alert program is being used in Canada, the United States of America and many other countries around the world.
In Ontario, eight AMBER Alerts were activated in 2019. That included 12 abducted children within the province in 2019. Of those 12 children, 11 of them were located safely and six out of the eight suspects were arrested. All eight abductions in 2019 were familial. All AMBER Alerts in 2019 were requested by municipal or regional police service investigations and issued by the OPP on their behalf. The OPP is the authorized issuer for Amber Alerts in Ontario.
Amber Alerts are distributed through Canada’s emergency alerting system, Alert Ready. Alert Ready was designed to deliver critical and potentially life-saving alerts to Canadians. It was developed with many partners including federal, provincial, and territorial government agencies, Pelmorex, the broadcasting industry and wireless service providers. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), requires all FM radio, AM radio, over-the air television stations, subscription-based broadcasting service providers and, as of April 2018, wireless service providers, to distribute these alerts. Government officials developed a specific list of the types of alerts that are considered a threat to life, which includes AMBER Alerts.
Once a child is abducted there is no way to determine the exact location the abductor is headed. It is important to alert the entire province, which is consistent with all other provinces in Canada. The Amber Alert on April 25, 2019 concluded at a distance of over 290 kilometres and the Amber Alert on May 14, 2019 concluded at a distance of over 400 kilometres within a few short hours.
“Your child has been abducted. Those are words no parent ever wants to hear. You may be sick to your stomach and feel helpless. I know as a parent, you want every possible set of eyes on the lookout in hopes for a safe return of your child. That is the purpose of the AMBER Alert Program.” – OPP Inspector Angie McCollum, Community Safety Services.
In Ontario, the OPP only issues AMBER Alerts, all other emergency alerts (e.g., tornados, hazardous substances, civil emergencies etc.) are issued by the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC).