Editorial: Amber alert complaints

Just don’t, okay?

People who call 911 to complain about amber alerts are inconsiderate, self-absorbed narcissists.

There’s just no room for argument there.

Lots of people agree. That’s clear from the number of people (over 100,000) that signed an Ontario petition asking for fines for people who dial 911 to complain when an amber alert wakes them up in the middle of the night.

A while back, Ontario introduced a system that pushes amber alerts directly to everyone’s cell phone. It’s been effective, and there have been a number of saves resulting from putting all those people on the lookout.

They’re called amber alerts in memory of Amber Hagerman, a nine-year-old Texas girl abducted and murdered in 1996.

Since there’s no predicting when the police might need help locating a missing child, some of those alerts come in the wee hours of the night or other inconvenient times.

This leads to angry people, woken from their sleep, grabbing the phone and deciding to gripe straight to 911. As we said, narcissists.

Dialling 911 is wrong for all the obvious reasons: it’s for emergencies, and your loss of sleep isn’t an emergency. It can also tie up lines for people reporting relevant information or other emergencies, or slow the response time for police rescuing the child.

There are few people so lacking in empathy that they don’t care about the fate of a scared child in danger. That said, everyone is fighting their own battle, and getting an alert at 2 a.m. when you’re desperate for sleep is not necessarily going to go over well.

While they shouldn’t be calling 911, the fact that so many people are complaining is an indication Ontario’s system is not well designed. There have only been five amber alerts in Ontario so far in 2019, but each has prompted a flood of complaints, including that the alerts come through even if you try to block them.

If such a system is ever introduced in B.C., and let’s hope it will be, it needs to be designed to allow people to opt out, at least for certain time periods.

–Black Press

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