Unfortunately, we are frequently notified by schools and law enforcement of attempted abductions, and we often learn about the release of convicted sex offenders into our communities. Gone are the days when children could just go outside and play alone and unsupervised.
We encourage parents, grandparents, and caregivers to continually communicate and prepare the child (role-play is very effective) to respond appropriately to any situation. Make your child understand that it is better to overreact than to risk abduction. (If your child runs screaming from a stranger who REALLY locked her keys in her car and needs help, you have done your job well!)
Have your child understand that a kidnapper does not look like a monster and will not be wearing black coats, hats or masks like in cartoons. Explain that a kidnapper will look and act like a normal mommy and daddy and will be polite and soft spoken. It could be any elderly couple, a woman alone, a well-dressed gentlemanly-looking man with a cane, the familiar janitor at school or an usher from your church.
Review the following with your child. These are just a few of the more common ruses used by criminals to lure children toward them and gain their trust..
What should your child do if a lady asks him to climb in her car window to get her keys from inside? (This actually occurred to a friend’s child on Staten Island.)
What should your child do if asked by a couple to find their lost puppy?
What should your child do if approached by a man in hospital scrubs, telling him that his parents were injured and he will take him to see them at the hospital.
Make your child understand that an adult who is a stranger should NEVER ask for help from a child for anything, and that includes looking for a lost puppy or giving them street directions. In all the above cases, your child should scream and run.
Make your child understand that you will never (under any circumstances) send an adult who is a stranger to bring the child to you in an emergency. Explain to your child ahead of time that the ONLY people you might send in an emergency would be: “Aunt Marie”, “Laura next door”, or the babysitter, Mary”. Go over this short list of trusted adults frequently, so the child will suspect anyone else.
At places like parks, beaches and amusement parks, do not allow yourself to be distracted. Often, a criminal will cause a diversion or some kind of excitement to call attention away from the child he/she wants to abduct. Stay focused on your child in any situation.
Just keeping a hand on your child’s stroller is not enough. I once took my grandchild out of the stroller without her grandmother noticing. Her hand was on the stroller as she had a conversation with another adult, and she was not aware that I had removed the child from the stroller.
Be sure your children stay together while at the park or during an outing. One adult cannot keep track of multiple children in multiple places.
If there are multiple adults in your outing, assign each adult to watch a specific child or children. So often, tragedy occurs because everyone thought someone else was watching a child.
As soon as you arrive at your park or beach, designate a place to meet if a child becomes lost. Consider a ranger station, first aid station, lifeguard chair, or similar spot staffed by park or beach emergency workers, or direct the child to a police officer.
While on outings at public places, dress all your children in the same bright colors. Neon orange, green, or yellow shirts and hats will make them stand out in the crowd and make your job of keeping track much easier.
If someone appears to be hovering near your child at the park or anywhere, stand between that person and your child. Make it apparent that you have noticed the person and make sure they know you have looked directly at them.
Use a cell phone to snap a picture of someone acting suspiciously and jot down their license plate number.
Do not hesitate to call the police. It’s better to be safe than sorry.