NEWS
02/15/2019 12:10 EST | Updated 02/15/2019 17:31 EST

Peel Regional Police Can't Believe People Complained Amber Alert Woke Them Up

The frantic search for 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar ended when she was found dead.

Police tape is seen outside of a house where Riya Rajkumar, 11, was found dead in Brampton, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2019 after an Amber Alert was issued.
Andrew Ryan/Canadian Press
Police tape is seen outside of a house where Riya Rajkumar, 11, was found dead in Brampton, Ont. on Feb. 15, 2019 after an Amber Alert was issued.

Police in Ontario actually had to explain why Amber Alerts were so vital on Friday, after receiving complaints that the emergency message had woken people up.

Peel Regional Police sent the alert at 11 p.m. ET Thursday, seeking the public's help in finding Riya Rajkumar, who was believed to be with her father. Riya's mother called police after they failed to return on time from celebrating the girl's birthday.

Riya, 11, did not live with her father on a full-time basis, police said. She was found dead at a home in Brampton, west of Toronto around midnight.

Amber Alerts, which go to cellphones as well as to media broadcasts, are issued when officials believe a missing child is in serious danger and they have sufficient information to launch a public search.

Apparently, many people felt their sleep was more important than the urgent plea, and decided to call 911 to complain about the intrusion.

"The goal of an Amber Alert is to involve as many community members as possible in the search for an abducted child," explains the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

41-year-old Roopesh Rajkumar was arrested as a result of someone who had seen the alert on their phone, spotted the suspect car, and called police.

Peel Regional Police handout/CP
Riya Rajkumar was found dead in a Brampton, Ont. home on Feb. 15, 2019. (Credit: Peel Regional Police handout/CP)

Peel Regional Police felt compelled to give everyone some perspective.

"We're talking about a child that was missing," said Const. Danny Marttini said on Friday. "I feel for everyone, but given the circumstances, I think it did lead to the arrest of the individual. I think that's what we have to focus on."

Const. Akhil Mooken added on Twitter: "I can't even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communication bureau complaining about receiving an Amber Alert late at night."

The union that represents the region's paramedics was a bit more direct in a Facebook post: "If you have a problem with a system designed to find missing children making your phone go beep because a child was missing and in danger, then you are a horrible person.

"Please don't waste time calling 911 to complain. The dispatchers there can't help you, and they are too professional to tell you to go to hell."

Sgt. Matt Bertram said their 911 centre received dozens of complaints on Friday morning, reported the National Post, after the Amber Alert continued to be received by some cellphones despite its cancellation hours before.

Grief and shock were setting in at Meadowvale Village Public School in Mississauga, Ont., where Riya was a Grade 5 student.

"Riya was a well-liked student, and her death is deeply felt by everyone at the school,'' principal Stacy Service said in the letter. "Even students who did not personally know Riya will also be affected."

Police said Rajkumar faces a charge of first-degree murder in connection with his daughter's death.

With files from The Canadian Press