A child abduction can occur any time or any place, regardless of age, race, or gender. The first line of defense is education and awareness. Unfortunately, it is not realistic to believe that we can watch our children all of the time. Children must be educated and empowered so they will not become victims. As parents/guardians and care providers, you are in a position to provide that empowerment.
It is important to discuss abduction in a way that is serious, yet not too frightening for children. The following tips are designed to help parents/guardians and care providers teach their children how to be safe. These tips cover the basics and should be reviewed often with children; once a year is not enough.
- Teach and explain. Start by teaching your child that a stranger is someone they and you don’t know very well. Make sure your child knows to always have your permission before going anywhere. It’s also important to let your child know the reason why you are talking about this: it’s for their safety.
- Communicate. Keep communication lines open with your child and let them know your expectations. Ask, “Where are you going? Who are you going with? When will you be back?” Have your child call you when they arrive and before they leave. And, it’s equally important to let your child know why you’re asking these questions and establishing these expectations; it’s for their safety.
- Practice: yell, kick, and scream. While this may seem obvious, many children freeze when they are grabbed. Let your child know that they should immediately start yelling, kicking, and screaming if they are grabbed. Children can make a potential abductor panic and flee by screaming at the top of their lungs, “Help! I am being kidnapped! HELP!!!” This will quickly draw attention to the attempted abduction.
- Memorize phone number(s) and address. Make sure your child knows their area code and phone number as well as their address. Additionally, make sure your child knows how and when to call 9-1-1.
- Promote the use of the “buddy system.” Encourage your child to use the buddy system and to watch out for each other. Teach children to walk on sidewalks as far away from the curb as possible against the flow of traffic so they can see who is approaching. This will make it more difficult for them to be surprised by a stranger.
- Warn of lure tactics. Teach your child how to detect and avoid “lure” conversation with strangers and run to a safe place. Some abductors/molesters tell children they are cute and want to take their picture; they have a toy or candy for them; have lost their puppy and need help; or, offer money for helping put something in their car. Children should know never to take candy or gifts from a stranger. Teach your child that adults do not usually ask children for directions. If someone in a car should stop and ask for directions, the child should not go near the car. Make certain your child knows when they hear these things from a stranger, they need to run fast to a safe place.
- Show your child where safe places are located and how to recognize trusted adults. Teach your child to look for a safe place or a trusted adult if they are lost or separated from you. In your neighborhood, this may be the home of a trusted friend, the local sheriff/police station, or fire house. In a more public location, this may be a cashier, ticket booth, or security booth. Tell children to trust their instincts, “If you think something’s wrong with someone you meet, run away.”
- Develop a separation plan. Teach your child what to do if they are separated from you or become lost. For example, if your child gets lost while shopping with you, they should know to go to the nearest trusted adult (security guard or cashier). Make sure your child knows not to ask a shopper they don’t know for help and not to go into the parking lot looking for you. Your child should know what to if they are separated from you while at a mall, amusement park, or any place you travel. Review this plan every time before visiting a mall, store, or other location.
- Accompany your child to public restrooms. Never allow your child to use a public restroom alone. If you can’t enter the restroom, stand outside by the entrance (prior to use, make sure there is only one entrance/exit).
- Establish routes for your child to follow. With your child, establish the route to take to and from school, friend’s houses, or other places. Under no circumstances should children deviate from the routes they normally travel. Avoid alleys and teach your child not to go near vehicles or places they don’t know. If someone is following a child, the child should know to go to a place where there are other people, to a neighbor's home, or into a store and ask for help. Children should not try to hide behind bushes.
- Talk to your child’s school and bus company. Make sure the school will notify you if your child does not arrive at school. Likewise, make sure the bus company will contact you as well. Let school staff know who is authorized to pick up your child.
- Rehearse proper answering of the telephone. Teach your child the proper way to answer the phone and not to answer the door if they’re home alone. Children should never tell strangers if they are home alone.
- Note your child's clothes daily. Make a mental note of what your child wears every day. Do not put your child's name on the outside of their clothing, books, or backpack because it allows a stranger to become friendlier with your child. If needed, put their name on the inside of clothes, books, etc. Make sure your child's school does not require children to wear a name tag on field trips. The school should use colors, numbers, or a teacher’s name instead.
- Keep current photos and records. Create a child identification box, and make sure it’s kept up to date. Always keep a current photo of your child with you at all times.
- Connect with your neighbors. Organize a Neighborhood Watch group to help keep your community safe.
For more information, please contact the Crime Prevention Unit at 651-266-7339 or via email.