Teaching Kids about Safety Works!
A few weeks ago we had a real scare. A Pomolita Middle School student was approached by a stranger, and asked if she wanted a ride. Thankfully, this student did absolutely everything right!
When first asked if she wanted a ride, she said, “NO!” When the suspect came back and asked again, she yelled, “YOU’RE SCARING ME. GET AWAY.”
In an incident last November, a potential kidnapper approached a 7-year-old Yokayo Elementary School student as she walked home. The suspect asked the girl if she wanted to go to the store, and she replied, “NO!” The suspect then grabbed the 7-year-old’s hand, and she courageously kicked the suspect in the foot.
Every year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reports that an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing. That’s more than 2,000 a day. Of that number, it’s believed that about 200,000 are abducted by family members and 58,000 are abducted by non-family members.
And most disturbing, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate that approximately 115 children a year are murdered, ransomed, or taken with the intent to keep the child.
An analysis of these attempted abduction cases by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that in 84 percent of cases, the child escaped would-be abductors through their own actions.
Teaching children about safety works. It saves lives.
With the end of school approaching, our kids will be out of school enjoying their summer. And, with this recent attempted abduction, I was thinking I should report again on information parents can use to help keep their kids safe.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com) published a simple guide to help children understand the dangers of child abduction and staying safe:
- I check first with my parents, guardians, or other trusted adults before going anywhere, helping anyone, accepting anything, or getting into a car.
- I take a friend with me when going places or playing outside.
- I tell people “NO” if they try to touch me or hurt me. It’s OK for me to stand up for myself.
- I talk to my trusted adult about anything makes me feel sad, scared, or confused.
People Your Child Knows
What people don’t realize about child abduction and exploitation is that the majority of cases involve an adult who is familiar to the child – not a stranger!
In general, we encourage children to be helpful and to respect authority (often represented by adults), so when a kidnapper asks a child to comply with a request—especially an adult the child knows—the child often feels they should comply. This is especially true if the kidnapper knows the family and tells the child that something has happened to a family member.
Parents can setup a code word with their children. If any adult asks the child to go with them, they have to know the code word. Parents also need to be clear with their children that if they feel they are in danger, they should “break the rules” – do not stay quiet and behave appropriately.
Instead, make a huge, loud, obnoxious scene and scream for help to get people’s attention. Have them practice once or twice screaming at the top of their lungs, “Help, this person is trying to take me.” Explain to children that this is the rare time that it is okay to go completely crazy in public.
Sports and Other Youth Activities
While most people who help youth activities do so because they love kids, some use it as a way to gain access to children to exploit them. Children need to know that behaviors that make them feel embarrassed or uncomfortable are not okay.
The sad truth is that adults who victimize children often count on the children’s shame or fear that they won’t be believed to keep them quiet. Be sure your kids know that you have their back. If your child is involved in youth activities, take note of the following questions:
- Do coaches and assistants submit to background checks?
- Are multiple adults supervising the children or just the one adult?
- If children have to change clothes to play the sport or activity, is there more than one adult present in the locker room at all times?
- Are any children getting special attention?
- Would my child know what to do if faced with an inappropriate or uncomfortable situation?
Staying Home Alone
Another time children can be at risk is when they stay home alone. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children as young as nine or ten years old may be left home alone for brief periods if the child is comfortable with it. To keep your child safe while at home alone, here are some tips.
- Make sure your child knows how to reach you or a trusted adult (write the phone numbers down and put them next to the phone).
- Review possible scenarios your child could face and explain how to handle them (e.g., what to do if the phone rings or the electricity goes out).
- Explain how to call 911 and write down what information they would likely need to share: full name, address, etc.
General Rules of Thumb
In addition to the recommendations listed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, here are some general rules of thumb kids should follow to stay safe:
- Don’t talk to strangers.
- Be aware of your surroundings (e.g., don’t focus your attention on your cell phone while walking home from school).
- Stick together. There’s safety in numbers.
- Practice basic self-defense. A swift kick to shins or private parts along with a loud scream should get the attention of people in the area.
- Lock doors, especially if home alone.
To help you determine what types of crimes are occurring within your neighborhood, or near your child’s school, you can find an interactive map at the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) website (www.ukiahpolice.com). This map is located under the “Live Crime Map” tab, and will allow you to find out detailed information about crime activity near your home or school.
If you’d like to be notified about crimes that occur near a specific location, you can sign up through the interactive map. We have also posted several useful links you can use to obtain more information on keeping kids safe under the “Missing, Exploited and Child Safety Resources” tab.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.