From milk cartons to cell phones

Amber Alerts, issued to notify the public of an abducted childin danger of death or serious bodily harm, can now deliver relevantdetails right to your purse, pants pocket or holster.

Last week the alert system was expanded to include cell phonetext messaging and instant e-mail notifications to Ontarioresidents that register.

The service is being provided through a partnership with BellCanada, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services,and the OPP, via the Bell 1X network, a digital voice and datanetwork.

Currently, Bell Canada’s Ontario-based workforce of 25,000receive alerts via the company’s internal communications systems,according to Bell Canada spokesperson Paolo Pasquini.

The e-mail notification is available free of charge, while thetext messages are free for Bell Mobility subscribers, and fornon-Bell Mobility customers, it’s dependent upon their respectivecarriers, said Pasquini.

“This initiative is part of a long-standing working relationshipwith the Ontario government,” he said. “The Amber Alert expansionservice is unique in it’s pairing of a telecommunications companywith the government to distribute these alerts. This is a Canadianfirst.”

Since the program was introduced in Ontario in 2003, 11 AmberAlerts have been issued, according to Nora Skelding,superintendent, OPP Highway Safety Division.

“The OPP is essentially the conduit for putting out the alert,”said Skelding.

She added that any police service in Ontario who wants to put inan alert, already knows the criteria for doing so, and can call theduty office with the OPP which is staffed 24/7 and then theinformation is very quickly clarified, and disseminated out to themedia and all other stakeholders.

The OPP is very careful about issuing the alerts, Skeldingsaid

“We don’t want people to become complacent seeing them all thetime, so that’s why we go over the criteria very carefully beforeissuing an alert, which sometimes comes to the criticism of thepublic who ask why we didn’t issue an alert sooner,” saidSkelding.

She noted there are a lot of factors involved, and it could bethat the information isn’t available to the investigator.

“We don’t want to be putting them out all the time, and there’sbeen experiences in the U.S., where they’ve put them out probablymore regularly than maybe they should have, and people did becomecomplacent, they weren’t paying attention to the signs.”

Pasquini said Bell Canada is not just leveraging the use oftheir technology, they’re also leveraging their people in helpingto make the community safer.

“The ideal situation would be that no one will ever have to useit,” he said.

As far as the OPP’s views on the expansion of the service toinclude e-mail and text message alerts, Skelding said they’re verypleased.

“It’s another tool in the toolbox that we can use to get thepublic to help us locate an abducted child and help get them homesafely.”

Those interested in registering for instant Amber Alertnotification through text messaging or e-mail, can do so at:

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