PA/NJ Amber Alert Sparks Confusion, Anger After Early-Morning Smartphone Alarm

 @christopherzarac.zara@ibtimes.com
on February 07 2014 11:27 AM

Amber More than a year after the FCC added Amber Alerts to its wireless alert program, many smartphone owners are caught completely off guard when their devices go off during the wee hours.  Reuters

In what is becoming a familiar pattern of shock, awe and vent, startled Pennsylvanians took to Twitter early Friday to voice their alarm and frustration over an Amber Alert that woke them up via their smartphones.

The alert was issued by the Pennsylvania State Police for the Lancaster City Police Department. Police said a 3-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy were abducted from a residence at gunpoint by Eddie Ahorrio Jr., 23, and Eddie Ahorrio Sr., 47, both Hispanic males. The abduction reportedly took place around 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.

The alert was canceled Friday morning after the children were found safe in Philadelphia, according to Philly.com. The suspects are now in police custody.

Many residents -- some dazed, some annoyed -- posted to Twitter to say they were startled or woken up by the sound of their smartphones beeping. New Jersey residents also got the alerts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been just over a year since Amber Alerts were added to the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA), which automatically sends emergency alerts to cellphone users whose devices meet certain technical criteria. Some critics of the system have called for restraint on what time of day the alerts are sent out, saying that people woken up by the repeated beeping noise are more likely to opt out of the program altogether. In order to opt out, smartphone users must contact their local providers. Indeed, many Twitter users posted tweets Friday morning asking how to disable to alerts. Others posted that they’ve had enough.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, the Amber Alert system has resulted in more than 600 successful recoveries since it began in 1996. Some critics have questioned those figures, most notably Timothy Griffin, a University of Nevada criminologist, who in a 2008 study called Amber Alerts a form of “crime control theater.”

Police say the suspects in custody for Thursday’s abduction are the children's father and grandfather. Read the latest from Philly.com here.

Got a news tip? Email me. Follow me on Twitter @christopherzara.

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