Wendy Rodriquez was on her way to work in Harlem at 3:51 a.m. Wednesday when suddenly her phone made a very loud noise.
She got the Amber Alert that 7-month-old Mario Danner Jr. had been allegedly kidnapped by his apparently bipolar mother Marina Lopez after their supervised visit at an ACS building on 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard. Wendy was one block away.
Danner, Jr. was found safely. Police got a tip a tip after the Amber Alert.
It is believed that millions of New Yorkers received the Amber Alert on their mobile phones after the NYPD asked State Police to initiate a Wireless Emergency Alert through FEMA, to the FCC, and the cell phone companies.
The phone companies voluntarily issue the alerts through cell phone towers. Phones purchased in the last year are automatically set to receive four kinds of alerts: Presidential, Extreme, Severe and Amber. You can opt out of three of them but many people don't know how. The phones will not allow you to opt out of the Presidential alerts.
The Fox 5 Facebook page was flooded with angry comments from people upset about being awoken with the alert. Several wanted to know why it was sent six hours after the Amber Alert was issued. Others wanted to know why it was sent when most people were sleeping and would not be in a position to do anything about the situation.
Robert Hoever of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children admits there are concerns about the use of the system.
"We don't want to over-saturate the public. We don't want to desensitize the public," Hoever says. "That's why there is restrictive criteria."
Older phones often cannot receive the free geographically specific alerts.