Stranger Danger - Update
Last school year, a number female students in their early teens were approached by strangers or assaulted on their way to and from school. In each situation, the teens fought back and got away.
Working with the Ukiah Unified School District (UUSD), we immediately issued press releases and posted information on social media (which you can access at ukiahpolice.com), and our officers began paying extra attention to school routes and school bus stops to help prevent this activity from occurring again.
As we start a new school year, I can’t think of a more important topic to talk with your students about than their safety. Children should be instructed to recognize and report suspicious behavior, including any time any adult does any of the following:
Asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission;
Suggests they keep a secret;
Makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.
Even with good instincts and smart behavior, kids cannot always avoid dangerous situations. If they feel threatened, they can use the “No, Go, Yell, Tell” rule: say no, run away, yell as loudly as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recommends the following safety tips for kids:
Don’t talk to strangers.
Be aware of your surroundings.
Stick together; there’s safety in numbers.
Practice basic self-defense. (A swift kick to shins or private parts along with a loud scream will get the attention of people in the area.)
Lock doors, especially if home alone.
As a parent, I know it can be difficult to figure out how much information to share with your children at each age and stage of their development. If you have young children, kidsmartz.org is a great place to start. It has several online cartoon videos designed to teach kids how to stay safe. The videos are in five parts: Check First, Take a Friend, Tell People No, Tell a Trusted Adult and Test Your KidSmartz; you can even play the videos on your smart phone.
For kids in grade school and older, I encourage parents to enroll their child or teenager in a self-defense class (even one 30-minute class). Many people think of self-defense as a kick to the groin or jab towards the eyes of an attacker. While these skills can be useful, self-defense is much more.
Students who have taken self-defense classes often report feeling more prepared in case of a violent attack or sexual assault. They also report feeling more empowered in everyday situations like walking alone at night or being approached by a stranger. Self-defense reduces vulnerability by making participants more aware of their surroundings and teaching them how to react to a variety of situations.
Research shows that kids who yell or use active physical resistance are more likely to avoid being assaulted or abducted. The goal of a good self-defense course is to provide students with response options to an attack, not to teach violent behaviors. As kidshealth.org says, self-defense is all about using your smarts, not your fists.
The idea of our school-aged kids being assaulted or abducted is disturbing and frightening. If you’d like to learn more about how to protect your children, visit ukiahpolice.com and click on the Community Support tab for more child safety resources.
And in case you missed last week’s column, I’d like to introduce you to our new School Resource Officer, Tony DeLapo. Officer DeLapo is assigned specifically to work at our schools; he is always available to help with issues of safety both on campus and while your student walks to and from school.
If you have questions, Officer DeLapo can be contacted through the Ukiah Dispatch Center at 463-6262, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have suggestions on how we can improve please feel free to call me. If you would like to know more about crime in your neighborhood, you can sign up for telephone, cell phone and email notifications by clicking the Nixle button on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.