Abductions And Strangers - The Stats And Prevention Tips

The Amber Alert issued for a young girl kidnapped at a playground was cancelled after the girl was found and police arrested the suspect. The police had received reports from two witnesses who noted the kidnapper's suspicious behavior.

Police point out that citizens should pay attention to Amber Alerts, but more importantly, children should be taught how to respond and react when a stranger approaches them. Paige Hill "Amber Alert results in family being reunited," kfor.com (May 6, 2014); and "Tulsa Police Cancel Amber Alert After Girl Found Safe," www.newson6.com (May 6, 2014).

Commentary and Checklist

According to a CNN report, a study published by the Department of Justice stated that "[o]f the 797,500 children reported missing in a one-year period, 203,900 were abducted by family members and 58,200 were abducted by non-relatives. One hundred fifteen were classified as being taken by a stranger."

The likelihood of stranger abducting a child you know is slight. Most abductors and their victims know each other. Nevertheless, abductions do occur, and safe adults must know how to react.

The child in the source article was saved because two people were alerted by the suspect's odd behavior and reported it. One witness, a store employee noticed the suspect's driver's license designated him as a registered sex offender; yet, the suspect was buying children's books and coloring books. The other witness saw the suspect at a local fast food drive-thru. The witness thought the suspect "was up to no good" and decided to call the police. When sheriff's deputies arrived, the suspect fled but was later apprehended by police in a wooded area not far from the drive-thru. The little girl was found nearby.

What should you teach your child regarding strangers who approach them? From the website kidshealth.org, here are some tips to help keep your children safe:
  • Teach your children never to go with strangers.
  • Do not leave babies and young children alone.
  • Teach your children where they can and cannot go.
  • Watch your children at parks, malls, movie theaters, and other public places.
  • Be aware of your child's online activity.
  • Help your children understand grown ups do not need a child's help with directions, finding lost pets, or assistance in any other way.
  • Children should understand they must ask permission before leaving the house.
  • Teach your children their names, phone number (with area code), address, and whom to trust in your neighborhood if they need help.
  • Instruct children to go to a cashier if they are lost in a store. Explain they should not leave the store to find you.
  • Create a code word with your child in the event you cannot pick him or her up. It should be meaningful to the family and not easily guessed.
  • Teach your child how to use the phone and how to call the police and 911.
  • There have been cases in which sex offenders have pretended to be police officers. Tell your child that a real police officer will have a fully marked squad car with the name of your local community displayed. A real officer will understand why a child will not speak to him or her especially if wearing civilian dress or if riding in an unmarked car.
  • Tell your child never to take candy from a stranger.
  • Teach your child to never approach a stranger to see a cute puppy or other pet in the stranger's car.
Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: