Theft triggers police search
A car theft outside of a casino in Oklahoma prompted a statewide search this week, but police were more concerned with the ten-year-old child inside the car than the vehicle itself. Authorities have since found the boy safe and sound, but his mother now faces charges of neglect for leaving him while she gambled at the Newcastle casino.
police found the car, child, and suspected thief at a gas station
In the build-up to the incident, the gambler reportedly left her son at around 4:30am on Wednesday morning before entering the casino. Police issued the Amber Alert at 8:30am Wednesday morning, triggering a statewide manhunt for the vehicle and child. Not long after this, police found the car, child, and suspected thief at a gas station.
Oklahoma City Police took to Twitter Wednesday to share the news:
As reported by News 9, Canadian County Sheriffs have arrested the alleged thief in the case. Meanwhile, Lighthorse Police have taken the mother of the child into custody.
Highlighting deeper issues
Oklahoma police were able to locate the child this time around, but certain groups have argued that the incident highlights certain issues in regards to gambling and child neglect in Oklahoma. “A child is left in a vehicle because of gambling,” commented Joe Dorman of the Oklahoma Insititute of Child Advocacy (OICA). “That’s just ridicuous. That should never happen.”
We see this far too often where people just let it slide more and more.”
As reported by News on 6, Dorman believes this is just the first time police have caught the mother rather than an isolated incident of child neglect. He speculated that the issue probably centers around gambling addiction, something he believes is too often the cause of child negelct across the state. “We see this far too often where people just let it slide more and more,” he said.
The Oklahoma Association of Problem Gambling and Gaming has also noted the prevalence of gambling-related child neglect in the state. The group’s executive director Wiley Harwell said that Oklahoma casinos train employees to look out for signs of neglect because gamblers leave children in vehicles so often. He, too, pointed to gambling addiction as a main cause for the issue.
Not the only occasion
In a similar situation in 2019, a five-year-old child died after his grandmother left him in a car for six hours while she gambled in a casino in Harrah, Oklahoma. Temperatures soared to a high of 90 degrees that day. Last year, a US District judge sentenced Allanna Jean Orr to 17 years in federal prison for causing her gandson’s death.
Incidents of gambling-related child neglect are not confined to just one state, either. The Pennsylvania Gaming Conrol Board has confirmed that leaving a child in a car in a casino parking lot is a common reason for gamblers to end up on the involuntary exclusion list. In one such incident in July, a father left his 11-year-old in his vehicle while he played at Wind Creek Casino in Bethlehem for more than two hours.
The US gambling hub of Las Vegas also has its cases of child neglect. Police arrested a a 39-year-old man in July this year for leaving his infant son in a sweltering vehicle while he gambled in a North Las Vegas casino. Authorities transported the six-month-old boy to a local hospital for evaluation, but he survived the incident unscathed.