Questions for the Cops: Understanding Amber Alerts

Stratford police Const. Darren Fischer sheds light on why and when Amber Alerts are issued as part of this month's Questions for the Cops.

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In continuing with his Questions for the Cops initiative, Stratford police Const. Darren Fischer is shedding light on another community policing topic of interest – Amber Alerts.

Throughout April, Fischer said the police service received a number of questions about when and why Amber Alerts are issued.

“We felt that this was a very important topic, as these notifications are broadcast over all media avenues, including our mobile devices, with the intention of gaining the assistance from the public in locating an abducted child,” Fischer writes. “By engaging the community in the search, these Amber Alert notifications really could be a contributing factor in reuniting an abducted child with its family and, in the most extreme circumstances, could mean the difference between life and death for that child.”

Amber Alerts are only issued when police believe public knowledge of an alleged abduction would help officers find that child. An abducted child is a person under the age of 18 who is reported to be involuntarily missing from the person responsible for their care.

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Before an Amber Alert can be issued, the following criteria must be met:

  • The law-enforcement agency has confirmed that a child younger than 18 has been abducted;
  • The law-enforcement agency believes the circumstances surrounding the abduction indicate the child is in danger of serious bodily harm or death; and
  • There is enough descriptive information about the child, the abductor and/or the suspect’s vehicle to believe an immediate broadcast alert will help in locating the child.

If the above criteria are met, a request is submitted to the OPP for approval and to distribute the message, which is sent to everyone across the province.

“It is important to recognize that an Amber Alert cannot be issued for a missing person who has voluntarily left their home, as it does not meet the definition of an abduction and does not meet the above criteria,” Fischer said.

“This does not mean that the police do not take these other missing person situations seriously. An investigation into all missing person incidents will always take place when they are reported and, if deemed appropriate and necessary, the police will engage the assistance of the local community to help locate that individual by distributing information over social media or through a formal media release.”

Fischer said residents of Stratford, St. Marys and Perth South have traditionally been responsive and helpful whenever police have asked for the public’s assistance in locating a missing person.

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“We thank the community for its support and recognize the importance of working together with our community in these types of incidents, as well as with preventing all areas of criminal activity and improving community wellness,” Fischer said.

The Stratford Police Service’s monthly Questions for the Cops initiative is a new way local police are trying to connect with and inform the community they serve. Each month, Fischer publishes a Safety Tip of the Month on the police service’s Twitter and Facebook accounts, as well as through local media such as the Stratford Beacon Herald.

Area residents are then invited to ask questions about the safety tips or any other community policing topics in the comments sections of those social media posts, which Fischer reads and answers at the end of each month through articles like this one.

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