Toddler left in car at casino

A man is facing child abandonment charges after police rescued a toddler who was left in a car in a Calgary casino parking lot for six hours in frigid temperatures.

CALGARY — A man is facing child abandonment charges after police rescued a toddler who was left in a car in a Calgary casino parking lot for six hours in frigid temperatures.

Someone heard a child’s cries from the car shortly after midnight Monday and called for help.

The car’s front and side windows were obscured by blankets and the back window was also mostly blocked off.

“If the little guy hadn’t been crying up to that point, there may not have been a way of noting somebody was in the vehicle, just because it was difficult to see inside,” said police spokesman Kevin Brookwell.

Inside, rescuers found an underdressed 21-month-old boy strapped into a child’s car seat in the back.

The tot wasn’t wearing socks or shoes, and had vomited on his clothing. The officer who found the child noted his hands and feet were cold to the touch.

Temperatures outside hovered around -8 C at the time.

The boy was taken to hospital, but his condition wasn’t considered life threatening.

“The child is currently safe and doing well,” said Dawn Delaney, Child and Family Services communications manager for the Calgary area. She declined to say whether he was still in hospital.

Police found the boy’s 50-year-old father through the vehicle’s registration and tried paging him inside the casino, said Brookwell.

He was arrested as he left, about six hours after he was seen going in.

It’s believed the boy’s father, who can’t be named to protect the youngster’s identity, may have checked on him occasionally during the six-hour period.

Cases of children being left alone outside casinos happens more than you’d think, said Garry Smith of the Alberta Gaming Research Institute at the University of Alberta.

“That pops up quite often every year,” he said. “When I say quite often, it’s not an everyday case, but it’s not unusual either.”

Usually the parent has a gambling addiction, which has been shown to make people forget their responsibilities, Smith said.

People addicted to gambling often plan to pop in to play for 15 or 30 minutes and end up staying until all their money runs out, he said.

Delaney said it’s been about a year since Family Services has dealt with a case of a child being left unattended in a car.

Brookwell said police have laid five charges of child abandonment since 2006, three of which involve youngsters being left in cars. Not every call they get about a child being left alone results in a charge.

“Six hours in this particular case, in the weather conditions and the condition that we found the child, with the vomiting and cold to the touch, certainly constituted, in our eyes, a need to charge under the Criminal Code.”

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