Prince Albert’s police chief said the first Amber Alert activated by Prince Albert Police was a success thanks to the caring citizens of Saskatchewan who shared a missing girl's photo with nearly two million people.
An eight-year-old girl was abducted from a playground near Ecole Vickers Public School in the Crescent Heights area of Prince Albert at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4. Chief Troy Cooper said the investigation began as soon as the girl was reported missing by family members, and the Amber Alert system was activated once the officers obtained school surveillance footage to determine an abduction had occurred.
Roughly five hours after the alert, police announced the girl was located and their hunt for the suspect began. Registered sex offender Jarrod John Charles, 19, was arrested without incident a few hours later at a business in the West Hill area. He now faces numerous criminal charges including kidnapping and sexual assault.
While missing person cases and abductions are given the highest priority by police, Cooper said the wide-reaching response from concerned citizens contributed directly to locating the girl.
“Although we have extensive resources and an incredible scope of professional partnerships, nothing can compare to the reach and to the commitment of caring Saskatchewan citizens,” Cooper said. “Our Facebook page that discussed this missing child was viewed almost two million times in a 24-hour period.”
After the event, the girl’s family members were widely criticized on social media for leaving the eight-year-old alone briefly while she played on the playground, but Cooper emphasized the parents should not be blamed for the abduction.
“This was a rare and unfortunate incident in a very safe community,” he said.
Although the investigation is still ongoing and the matter is now before the courts, the police were able to release a few new details of the case. Inspector Jason Stonechild told reporters Charles was identified as a suspect based on information provided the public, and said the individual who located the girl immediately recognized her from the widely-shared photos and called police.
The eight-year-old girl walked onto a rural acreage just outside of the city, Stonechild said, and was quickly delivered to police by the property owner. A K9 unit was able to track the girl’s scent back to the area where police suspect she was dropped off, Stonechild said, though he would not speculate on how far she may have walked or how long she may have spent with Charles before he allegedly abandoned her.
Though the police could not comment directly on the young victim’s current condition, Cooper said she is a happy and intelligent young girl who is currently safe in the care of family members.
The girl's name and photograph were shared widely throughout the province during the Amber Alert, but her identity is now protected by court-ordered publication ban. paNOW has removed her identifying information from previous coverage as well as a courtesy to the victim.
On Twitter: @TMacPhersonNews
Editor's Note: Commenting on this story is closed now that the matter is before the courts.
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