Children warned against ‘stranger danger’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 6, 2001

Staff Writer

The recent disappearance of a Prattville girl has brought to light the importance of educating children about strangers.

Officers with the Troy Police Department are often called upon to teach children about safety, but they are stepping up their efforts to include adults in the community.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

"If there’s something we can do to be proactive, we want to do it," Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage said. "Prevention is a lot easier than trying to deal with what comes after that (an incident, such as abduction)."

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Crime Information Center, there were 876,213 individuals reported missing in 2000. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of those entries were juveniles.

That translates into an average of 2,100 juveniles begin reported missing each day.

The national Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway and Thrownaway Children, conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice, and released in 1990 estimates 354,100 "missing child" reports are family abductions, between 3,200 and 4,600 are nonfamily abductions, 114,600 are attempted nonfamily abductions, 450,700 are runaways, 127,100 are thrownaways and 438,200 are lost, injured or otherwise missing.

Everage wants to include more education in the schools, but wants parents and other adults in the community to be educated, as well.

He suggests parents discuss some of the tips in this article with their children.

"As a police department, we have some responsibility to educate the public," Everage said.

Sgt. Benny Scarbrough, public information officer for the TPD, said awareness and education equal prevention.

"We have our educators talk about this, but it’s not only a school problem," Scarbrough said. "It’s a community problem and we want to prevent something from happening."

And, as the situation in Prattville showed many, it can happen anywhere, anytime.

"We feel like it’s important we communicate to people in our community the awareness issues," Scarbrough said. "We’ve seen the unfolding of what’s happening in Prattville."

Following are some tips adults may want to discuss with children:

· Never talk to strangers.

· Never let a stranger get too close, whether he or she is in a car or walking.

· Never take candy, a present, a ride or anything else from a stranger.

· Never tell a stranger your name or address.

· Never go with a stranger to find a lost puppy.

· Never go into deserted places alone.

· Always try to walk with a friend or a grownup.

· If a stranger grabs you, yell as loud as you can for help.

· If a stranger follows you, run to a place where there are people, like a store or restaurant. Don’t run to a place that is dark or deserted.

· If you are home alone, never open the door to anyone knocking or ringing the bell and never tell anyone calling on the phone that you are home alone.

· Never let anyone touch your private parts. If someone asks to or does touch your private parts, tell your parents or an adult you trust.

Since the concept of "stranger" may be difficult for a child to understand, adults may want to teach them to look out for threatening behaviors and situations.

Parents are urged to keep a recent photo, copy of the child’s fingerprints and updates record of his or her height and weight. Also, make a mental note of what children are wearing every day.

Scarbrough said parents should be sure a child knows his or her name, address, city, state and phone number (including area code), plus how to dial 911 in the event of an emergency.

Law enforcement officers recommend not marking a child’s clothing, toys, book bag or other items with a first name.

"We want parents and other individuals in our community to be aware and teach children to be aware," Scarbrough said.