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Preventing Child Abductions by StrangersSeptember 10th, 2015 | by admin admin | in Safety Advice | 5
Child kidnapping is a parent’s worst nightmare. This week, two attempted child abductions in Stanley Park brought the danger home. At 8:30 a.m. on September 4, a man grabbed an 8-year-old girl at the foot of Denman, near the seawall at Stanley Park. Then, on September 7 around 2 p.m., the same man tried to abduct a two-year-old girl at Lost Lagoon. In both cases the parents confronted the suspect, who fled. Fortunately, after the second incident, park rangers spotted the suspect near Denman and Robson. Police, assisted by a citizen, arrested him in the 1800 block of Alberni.
While most children are taken by family members, child abductions by strangers are less predictable. However, actual stranger abductions are far rarer than attempts. Statistics indicate many children escape attempted abductions. Confident, assertive children who have the skills to respond safely to dangerous situations are far less vulnerable.
Consider what we know about attempted child abductions. According to a 2004 study cited in Stranger Abductions, MIssingkids.ca):
- 38% occur as a child goes to and from school, takes the school bus or rides a bike
- 37% occur between 2 and 7 p.m. on weekdays
- 43% involve children between the ages of 10 and 14
- 72% of victims are girls
- 68% of suspects drive a vehicle
Moreover, suspects most commonly lure children by
- offering a ride, money, candy or sweets
- showing or asking for help in finding an animal, such as a pet dog or cat
- asking for directions
While street-smart kids should be aware of these facts about abduction, scaring children doesn’t work. Children need to know how to make safe decisions, recognize potentially dangerous situations and trust their instincts.
Here are some tips for teaching children about stranger danger:
1. Don’t call it stranger danger. Not every stranger is dangerous and children become confused about whom to trust. Don’t make a Stranger the Bogey Man.
2. Trust your instincts. Speak up, be rude, run away if you feel unsafe.
3. Move away. This may be a simple way for younger children to remember to keep their distance and check in with their adult before engaging with a stranger.
4. Think first, don’t panic. Teens and even adults can learn to assess situations before responding, if at all. It’s OK, and even advisable, to say nothing and keep walking, when you’re alone and feel unsafe. Predators expect victims to react in fear. Be smart instead.
5. Don’t share. Never give out personal information to someone you don’t know.
6. Do yell. And run. Practise.
7. Fight back. It’s OK, in an emergency. Consider enrolling in self-defense classes. Practise.
8. Break rules. It’s also OK to create a scene, break stuff—including expensive merchandise—talk back, pee, anything to attract attention if someone is trying to grab you. Promise your children they won’t ever get in trouble if they do. Practise (at home).
Safety expert Bob Stuber, via Dr. Phil, recommends that children pay attention to what strangers do, more than what they say or how they look. A friendly wave is OK. Calling a child to a parked car is not. In fact, a child should learn to walk, or run, away from any person calling to them from a vehicle.
As kids head back to school, the Stanley Park abductions may be a good starting point for teaching them about staying safe on the street.
Sources and additional resources:
Stranger Abductions. Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc. (Missingkids.ca)
Kidpower Safety Tips: Protecting Children from Stranger Abduction/Kidnapping
Top Five Tips for Preventing Child Abduction. Dr. Phil.
Note: This blog discusses general safety and security topics. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or guidance. In all matters of personal safety and security, we encourage readers to research topics in depth and consult a security professional about specific concerns.
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