WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4)– Police in Westminster are defending their usage of an emergency notification for a missing child after residents complained about the early morning call.
The emergency call was made at 10:30 p.m. to thousands of residents in Westminster, Thornton and Broomfield about a missing child.
They received this recording: “This is a notification for a missing child out of Westminster. The party is a 12-year-old male named Gabriel Duwaik.”
Gabriel has autism and is non-verbal. He had also missed his medication and was last seen while he was riding his bicycle.
When police couldn’t find him, they began sending out alerts in hopes that someone would know where he was.
“We were concerned that maybe had he found somewhere and had fallen asleep,” said Westminster Police Investigator Kate Kazell.
Police sent out a second “Code Red” alert around 4 a.m. when they still hadn’t found Gabriel. That alert rang the landlines of 30,000 residents in Westminster, Broomfield and Thornton.
That alert included this message, “We are requesting the public’s assistance in locating Gabriel.”
Gabriel was found unharmed with his bike in Commerce City about 6 a.m.
Some residents complained, stating they resented the middle of the night intrusion and thought police should have delayed the second alert to a reasonable hour.
Police in Westminster stand by their decision.
“We apologize for the timing but we don’t have control over the time of the day that emergencies occur,” said Kazell.
That is specifically when those emergencies involve missing children in light of the murder of 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway who was also from Westminster. She was abducted and murdered while walking to school in October 2012.
“We know first hand if a kid goes missing it does have the potential to escalate into every parent’s worst nightmare so we treat these extremely seriously,” said Kazell.
Although most people supported the police department’s actions, there were hundreds of complaints.
The Code Red system automatically goes out to all landlines in the specific alert area. Those who want to add their cell phones to the notification list can go to your911.net.