The boy, Drake Whitker, was found safe less than two hours later after the thief abandoned the 2012 Audi Q5 in an alley in Skokie, police said.
The car was stolen from outside a home in the 1700 block of Good Avenue in Park Ridge around 12:20 p.m., police said. Around 2:15 p.m., someone alerted Skokie police that they had spotted the car parked in an alley. Drake was found inside safe, officials said.
Police said a Skokie resident who had heard about the Amber Alert through media reports spotted a car fitting the description parked in an alley near the intersection of Oakton and Laramie avenues in Skokie. The resident called 911.
Park Ridge Police Chief Frank Kaminski said Drake’s mother had pulled up to their Park Ridge home and had left the boy in the car with it running while she unloaded packages from the car. She emerged from the home to find a young man standing near the car and saw him get in the car and drive away, police said.
After the boy was reported missing, Amber Alerts were sent to cellphones around the region.
Most mobile devices are capable of receiving automatic alerts about severe weather, missing children and potential national emergencies from various government agencies. The alerts resemble text messages, but they also prompt phones to vibrate and emit a loud tone designed to get people's attention.
The system is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and was available beginning in April 2012, but many older phones aren't capable of receiving the alerts. Newer phones, however, are usually able to receive them.
In addition to Amber Alerts, the system also distributes severe weather alerts and so-called presidential alerts about national emergencies.
Phone settings can be changed to disable weather and Amber Alerts, but presidential alerts cannot be disabled, according to FEMA.
The alerts are free and are sent from cell towers to all devices capable of receiving them in a specific geographic area. For example, if you live in Chicago but are visiting another city where severe weather is expected, your phone will receive any alerts targeted to that city.
All major cell carriers voluntarily participate in the program, according to FEMA. Alerts are limited to 90 characters and are not affected by congestion on a cell network, the agency has said.