01/16/2012 04:17 EST | Updated 03/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Edmonton police apprehend child found in cold

A barefoot toddler clad only in shorts and an upside-down parka was found standing outside a west Edmonton apartment complex Sunday night.

The crying three-year-old boy was found by a neighbour who brought him inside and called 911 around 10:45 p.m. The temperature at the time was –24 C, with the wind chill making it feel like –34 C.

"It was determined to be such a priority that we sent Air-1 [police helicopter] and numerous ground units. We had cars there within a minute," said Sgt. Gary Willits of the Child at Risk Response Team.

EMS examined the boy. He was cold and his hands were red but paramedics determined he didn't need medical attention. Willits believes the child was outside for about five minutes.

"To me, it's tragic," Willits said. "It's sad because if it hadn't been for this citizen stepping forward I don't even want to think what the outcomes could have been."

At the home the child came from, police found a woman who was not related to him. Child welfare workers are now caring for the boy.

Willits commended the neighbour who called 911 for taking action.

"Sometimes these things can be bypassed, people may just view and move on," he said. "But this person stepped up, went out of their way, went outside to make sure the child was safe and contacted authorities immediately."

Willits declined to say if the woman was the child's babysitter or to speculate about how he got outside.

Charges are pending against the child’s mother.