Don’t allow nitwits to overshadow real amber alert concerns

A child in imminent danger needs to be saved from their abductor. This is the goal of the amber alert system.

Like any emergency response system, it needs to be updated. I’m willing to stick my neck out to suggest we take this a step further and ask: does the amber alert system cause more harm than good? It’s disturbing to think that the newly relaxed criteria for issuing an amber alert could itself be the reason why that child is now in imminent danger.

Recently in Ontario the criteria for issuing an amber alert has been relaxed.The OPP received criticism for failing to issue a warning when Tori Stafford was abducted. The previous criteria, that a “child be in serious danger or harm” has been replaced with police suspicion that “a child is in danger.”

Relaxing this standard could result in two concerning outcomes: 1) the public will begin to ignore amber alerts as they do car alarms and/or 2) amber alerts will be issued without due diligence, thereby increasing the risk of bodily injury or death. Does anyone believe that Tori’s killers (Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty), would have turned their vehicle around and returned Tori safely had they heard an amber alert on the radio? It is more likely that hearing the amber alert would have accelerated their brutal attack.

Psychopaths harbouring a propensity of violence towards children will not be deterred. Hearing that they are about to get caught could be their trigger.

Many articles before and after this will remind us of the success of the amber alert system. It is not my intention to take away from those happy endings. Everyone wants an abducted child to be returned safely. Issuing an amber alert should be done so only in cases where the risk of doing so does not outweigh the potential danger to the child. The more amber alerts the higher the chance of nitwits calling 9-1-1 to complain. Their effect will be watered down.

Allow the police to make an informed decision about whether to issue the amber alert based on the profile of the abductor.

Originally published in the Lawyer’s Daily June 7th, 2019:

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