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As police in Southern Ontario raced to find an 11-year-old girl allegedly abducted by her father, 9-1-1 dispatchers began fielding calls from tipsters trying to aid the search – and many others complaining their sleep had been disturbed by the screeching sounds of Canada’s new Amber Alert system.

Police said Friday they were dismayed by the complaints that flooded in even after the alert was called off around midnight, when the girl was found dead in a Brampton home.

“I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, e-mails and calls to our communications bureau complaining about receiving an Amber Alert late at night,” Peel Regional Police spokesperson Constable Akhil Mooken wrote in a tweet Friday. “I appreciate that a lot of people were sleeping but the immediate need to locate the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered.”

Last April, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission authorized all cellphone providers to include wireless public alerting on their LTE networks. Canadians cannot opt out of the system, which sets off an alarm and sends a pop-up message with details of the missing child to cellphones.

Peel Regional Police issued the Amber Alert at around 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, four hours after being contacted by a woman saying she feared for her daughter’s safety. The girl had been picked up by her father, Roopesh Rajkumar, for a birthday outing on Thursday afternoon, and hadn’t been returned at the prearranged time.

Police discovered the body of 11-year-old Riya Rajkumar in a Brampton home around midnight. Her father was arrested a short time later by provincial police in Orillia. Mr. Mooken said he is now recovering at the Toronto General Hospital, and “will be charged with first degree murder.”

A tip to 9-1-1 led to the father’s arrest, but along with that tip police received "numerous” complaints about the alert. Mr. Mooken said that from the time alert was issued to 9 a.m. Friday morning, the 9-1-1 call centre got 383 calls, although he couldn’t confirm that all calls were related to the Amber Alert.

“Within the first hour, our call-takers received over 124 calls,” he said, adding that “people were swearing at them ... and asking why the alert bypassed their [cellphones'] do not disturb setting, which [the alert] is designed to do.”

Others took to Twitter. “Why should all of Ontario be nuisanced [sic] by this…?” one user wrote.

“It’s unfortunate when an Amber Alert goes off…. that it does disrupt people’s lifestyles,” Peel Regional Police Constable Danny Marttini told reporters Friday morning. “But at the same point we’re talking about a child that was missing. And in this case the child was found deceased. Given the circumstances, it did lead to the arrest of the individual, so I think that’s what we need to focus on.”

Some Twitter users complained that they’d received the alert as far away as Winnipeg. A statement from the Winnipeg Police Service issued Friday says the alert “generated a number of calls to the 911 Centre [in Winnipeg] ... tying up our emergency call takers and potentially preventing legitimate calls from getting through."

“If it is not relevant to you, disregard the notification,” it said.

The new Amber Alert system is called Alert Ready. The company’s website says that people only receive alerts in a defined geographic area, which may be no larger than a few city blocks. When an alert is sent to a cell phone located far away from an incident, it may be because the radio signal that services the device also services others in a large geographic area that may encompass the location the emergency has occurred in.

With a report from the Canadian Press

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