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Sep. 26, 2020 | Saturday
Local News
NOTL residents talk late-night Amber Alerts
11-year old Riya was out for her birthday with her father Roopesh Rajkumar when she didn't return home by a certain time. Peel Regional Police issued Amber Alert later that night. (Instagram/themissnadia)

For some Niagara-on-the-Lake residents, late hours don’t matter when it comes to a missing child.

Many Canadians were left shocked after an 11-year-old girl was found dead Thursday night. She had been abducted and her father was charged with murder in her death. Many others expressed anger and indignation after they were wakened by late-night Amber Alerts.

Peel Regional Police issued their first Amber Alert just after 11:30 p.m. The second alert, stating the girl was found, was sent at around 12:30 a.m. The third notification was issued early Friday morning.

Police report Riya Rajkumar was out for her birthday with her father, 41-year-old Roopesh Rajkumar.

Roopesh was supposed to return Riya home to her mother by a certain time but didn’t. According to police, he later indicated he was intending to harm himself and his daughter.

The girl was found dead at a home in Brampton, police said. Her father was arrested and taken to the hospital with the self-inflicted gunshot wound, where he later died, according to media reports.

Police said the alerts helped them locate the suspect and his vehicle. “The system works,” they said. “Thank you to all those that called with tips.”

The Lake Report asked NOTL residents what they thought about Amber Alerts.

When Kathryn Hoshkiw got the alert, it wasn’t something that bothered her, she said.

“There are greater things in life to complain about. You need to save your complaints for something that is a little more stressful. To get woken up when a child is missing is not something that you should complain about.”

However, she added the entire system needs to change but “it will never be (changed).”

Phil Leboudec said the issue isn’t with the alert system because it is “effective.”

“I have two kids and I’m grateful that the system like that exists,” he said. “To have a system in place where everybody becomes involved and it becomes a larger community that can keep their eye out, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. The issue is that there are selfish people who out there who care less about other people’s safety.”

Blair Cowan said the Amber Alert system was great and he was happy with it.

"I don’t think there are any changes to be made,” he said. “And alerts shouldn’t be limited to any area.”

Sandra Knof said she has no issues with Amber Alerts but it “needs a different way of working.”

“Instead of getting mad at people who complain, you need to look at what’s wrong with the system,” she said. “Let’s figure out how to solve this. Because we don’t want people shutting off all Amber Alerts when they need it because it helps during the day.”

NOTL residents expressed their opinions on Facebook too. 

Margery Banks said people need the Amber Alert system.

“Turn off your phone if your sleep is more important than finding a missing child,” she said.

Many agreed that late-night alerts should be issued at any hour.

Ruth Dueck-Maltese said Amber Alerts “shouldn’t have a time limit on it” because “it’s an emergency.”  

Carrie Friesen DeBon was “definitely in favour of 24/7 alerts,” while Daniel Oliver commented that “it’s worth the small annoyance it may cause people.”

“Any time, any hour,” also said Michael Dunn. “When children are involved, it should be all hands on deck – drop everything.”

Liz Pullman shared the same sentiment.

“I can’t understand the people who would complain. It’s an emergency and the alert should be issued as soon as possible, regardless of the time.”

Another commentator, Gail Kendall, pointed out how the alert helped find the girl and her father.

Paolo Miele also commented telling to “keep the Amber Alerts at any time of the day or night. It might be one of us who may need help from all of our neighbours in Ontario.”

Const. Akhil Mooken, the media relations officer for Peel Regional Police, said it was “disappointing and upsetting” that some people were complaining about the alerts.

“I appreciate that a lot of people were sleeping but the immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered,” he tweeted. “Tragically this incident did not have the outcome we were all hoping for but the suspect was located as a direct result of a citizen receiving the alert and calling 9-1-1.” 

The Amber Alert is a warning system that notifies the public of an abducted child who could be in imminent danger. The alert provides information about the abducted child, the suspected abductor and any vehicle description available.

In Canada, each province operates its own Amber Alert program and only police agencies can issue the alert.

According to Alert Ready, Canada’s emergency alert system, notifications are sent through broadcast channels, such as television and radio, as well as compatible, LTE-connected wireless devices.

If the device is turned off, it will not receive an alert. If the phone is set to silent, it will display an emergency alert but there might not be any alert sounds. 

People can stop the alerts by sending “STOP” or “ARRET” to 26237 (AMBER).