We are mere days away from the official start of summer and there’s a new place to play in LaVergne. Many volunteers worked very hard in the scorching heat to build the Lake Forest Playground. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be officially announced on the city’s website as well as here on This Is LaVergne so stay tuned for that. With that in mind, I think it’s a good time to go over the tools available to keep your child safe from abduction. But first, a few statistics:
First, the good news: According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, child abductions have been on the decline, thanks in large part to community awareness and the Amber Alert system. And even fewer of the abductions result in loss of life. If you go strictly by the numbers, only 1 in 10,000 abductions result in the death of a child. 94% of all abductions, including acquaintance and family, end in the reunification of child and parent.
All toll, less than 25% of abductions are actual stranger abductions committed by mostly males, aged 20-40 years of age. Eighty percent of stranger abductions occur within one quarter of a mile of the child’s home. An overwhelming majority of these abductions are perpetrated on girls. As one would probably guess, abductions occur more in the late Spring and Summer months. The highest amount of abductions occur in May, June and August. Which is not to say that your child is any safer in other months. Remember, we are just going by the numbers here.
The last time I visited my sister and her family in Jacksonville, I went with her and my niece on her weekly trip to Sam’s Club. While there, I thought it would be a good idea to perform a little drill with my 7-year-old niece. As we walked around the store, I asked her to point out individuals she would approach if she were ever lost or separated from her mom and/or dad. I was pleasantly surprised to know that her natural instinct included police officers and women with young children since these types of people are far more likely to move heaven and earth to get her home to her parents. Which then prompted a discussion with both of my sisters and what they do to help to ensure their children’s safety. I’ve also asked many parents for tips on keeping their children safe. This is what they shared:
• First and most importantly, make sure your child knows how to get help if they’re ever approached by a stranger. Most are directed to scream something like “you’re not my father” or “you’re a stranger”. Children should not be concerned with being polite. Many children know when something is not right. Teach them to trust their gut.
• Many stranger abductions are not true stranger abductions. The abductor and child have likely had some kind of interaction in the past, as the abductor will work to build trust. Again, your child likely has a gut feeling about these people. They should trust it.
• If it hasn’t been prearranged with the primary caretaker or parent, teach your child never to go with a stranger anywhere. No matter what the stranger says.
• Have a secret code word/phrase with your children. If the person that tries to pick them up doesn’t know the code phrase, children should know that is NOT a safe person to go with.
• Every child should know their home phone number as well as each parent’s cell phone number. It is also a good idea to teach them their home address and how to dial 911.
• Children should also know that there is safety in numbers. A child playing alone can be a potential target of predators. The more people, including other children that are around, the less likely a predator will risk being identified.
• Parents should make a mental note of what their child is wearing so they can relay this information to authorities should they need to. I have one friend who said when her children were very young, she made a point of wearing colors that were similar to what her children were wearing so she could easily reference that in the event she needed to.
• Many police departments, including the LaVergne Police Department, offer an ID kit of some kind. It should include an updated photo of your child, preferably in a digital format that can be easily accessed at any time. It should also include identifying factors such as date of birth, name, nickname, height, weight, sex, birthmarks or other identifying marks such as scars, whether or not the child wears braces or glasses and a description of those items. They will also usually include a fingerprint kit. It is important to keep this information updated. A good rule of thumb is to update it every six months.
• For business owners, I think it’s a good idea to have some kind of policy in place that if a child goes missing inside their building, they will lock down the entire building until the child is either found or the police arrive. They do this in South Florida, where I am originally from. Sadly, this practice was not generally in place when Adam Walsh was abducted right out from under his parents’ noses. His mom turned her head for literally seconds.
Remember, it’s not enough to rely solely on the police to keep your children safe. Although the officers patrol the entire city at all hours and I can’t even remember a case of a child being abducted within our city limits so they are obviously doing a great job of that. You, the community, must remain aware and report anything that doesn’t look right. I don’t know about you but I’d rather be wrong and look foolish than be right and have done nothing.
I’d be interested to hear from my readers on ways you discuss this sort of thing with your children. Please feel free to use the comments section to share. In the meantime, Happy Summering!!