Written by The Herald-News
Parents need to update the advice they've been giving kids to keep them safe. Just warning them about "stranger danger" isn't enough anymore.
Parents for generations have warned their children, “Don’t talk to strangers” and believed their children were safe, which is a dangerous and outdated assumption.
In the best line of defense against predators, even in Wolf Point, parents need to keep their eyes open, stay vigilant and trust their instincts.
This was illustrated Oct. 2, 2012, in Wolf Point when local residents reported to the Wolf Point Police Department that their nine-year-old daughter had been approached by a man in a van near Northside School.
The girl was walking home from school, but did not fall victim to the man’s ploy and told adults immediately. The girl was able to provide law enforcement with a good description of the man and the vehicle he was driving.
Later, a parent was driving on the south side of Wolf Point when a vehicle and man matching the description was observed. The parent called 911 and the Wolf Point Police Department responded and performed a traffic stop of the vehicle.
The driver, Timothy Todd, 49, of Wolf Point, was detained at that time. Upon investigation, there had been several similar reports of a man approaching young girls. Those cases were reopened, reviewed and reported to the Fort Peck Tribal Court.
Three days later, a similar report was received from an eight-year-old female about Todd.
Todd appeared in Fort Peck Tribal Court Oct. 22 and was found guilty. He was sentenced to one year in tribal jail, a $5,000 fine and ordered to have no contact with the victims.
The stranger who grabs a child and drives away with her in his car often makes national news, but this is not the norm. Most children are victimized by someone they know.
Besides the fact that the majority are male, child sexual predators don’t fit into any one specific mold. Child predators come from different races, backgrounds and religions and are impossible to profile. According to information gathered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., many are married with children and working, so they stay below the radar and appear to be acceptable to society.
Most child abductions involve deception through well-known lures. Offers of free candy, a modeling contract or a picture of a fluffy little kitten are often used to lure unsuspecting children into dangerous situations. Other often-used ploys include:
Lost Pet/Free Pet: There is usually no lost pet — and, for that matter, an adult wouldn’t ask a child for help. Also, children should not approach a stranger’s vehicle under the guise of a free pet.
Assistance: Adults without ulterior motives do not ask children for help; they ask other adults. If an adult approaches in a car, children should run the opposite direction. If someone knocks on the door of your home, children should not to open it under any circumstance.
If a parent has “a bad feeling” about someone who interacts with their child at school, church or other places, they shouldn’t ignore it. Keep your child away and talk to law enforcement.
If a child says he’s uncomfortable being around someone, dig a little deeper. Intuition is not psychic nonsense. It’s a survival instinct that has allowed humans to avoid predators of the four- and two-legged variety for eons.
Here are some tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for keeping children out of danger:
Talk openly and often. Make sure your children know what’s appropriate for their age level. For young children, it’s enough to know that their private parts are off-limits and if anyone touches them or tries to touch them in places that make them feel ashamed or uncomfortable, they can tell Mom or Dad. Play out scenarios, such as what to do if a stranger pulls up in a car, to reinforce lessons.
Create a family phone book. Make a page for each child with home and cell phone numbers of friends’ families. In the event your child is missing, you’ll have an immediate network of people to call, not only to check to see whether your child is there, but also to spread the word in case the worst has happened.
Educate your child about the law. Children should know that no one has the right to touch their private parts or to ask them to touch theirs, because it’s against the law. Threatening a child is also illegal. Children need to be told that adults who do this will be punished.
Look for a mother with children. Instead of telling children to beware of all strangers, parents should be helping children to understand that some strangers can be helpful. If a child is lost, being threatened or in need of help, advise him to go to the nearest mother with children. Statistically, this person will be the most likely to help, not hurt your child. A store clerk behind a counter is also a good choice. They’re in a public place and can summon the police if necessary.
Be vigilant. Parents should be wary about permitting children in their primary years to walk to school or a friend’s house or play outside unattended.
How To Help
While most people are good, parents can’t take a chance when it comes to a child’s safety. Although children should be taught to yell out, “This is not my mommy/daddy,” or “I don’t know this person,” not every child will. Anyone who sees a car hanging around the street, park or school should call the police. Half of all non-forcible enticements occur outdoors in such places.
One in five children has received unwanted sexual solicitations from someone online. Such people are pros at finding out where your child lives without asking directly. To help keep your children safe, keep these tips in mind:
•Keep the computer in full view, not in your child’s bedroom.
•Check your phone log and bill for unfamiliar numbers.
•Question gifts or money your child has received for which you can’t account.
•Limit your child’s time online and consider installing security software that will allow you to monitor her activity online.
•Know what other computers your child may be using — at school or a friend’s house. Just because you don’t have a computer doesn’t mean your child doesn’t have online access.
For more information, visit www.missingkids.com, www.netsmartz.org or www.ChildLures.org.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® gathers key facts regarding the issues of missing and sexually exploited children and Internet safety and updates these facts and statistics frequently.
The most recent, comprehensive national study for the number of missing children estimated in 1999:
Approximately 800,000 children younger than 18 were reported missing.
More than 200,000 children were abducted by family members.
More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
An estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These “stereotypical” kidnappings involved someone the child did not know or was an acquaintance. The child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently.
To find the number of children missing from a specific state or territory contact the state’s Missing Child Clearinghouses.
The first three hours are the most critical when trying to locate a missing child. The murder of an abducted child is rare, and an estimated 100 cases in which an abducted child is murdered occur in the U.S. each year. A 2006 study indicated that 76.2 percent of abducted children who are killed are dead within three hours of the abduction.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 188,389 missing children since it was founded in 1984. The recovery rate for missing children has grown from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today.
The AMBER Alert program was created in 1996 and is operated by the U.S. Department of Justice. As of July 18, 2013, 656 children have been successfully recovered as a result of the program.
As of June 2013, NCMEC’s toll free, 24 hour call center has received more than 3,810,960 calls since it was created in 1984. Information about missing or exploited children can be reported to the call center by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Child Sexual Exploitation
U.S. law enforcement agencies have seen a dramatic increase in cases of sexual exploitation of children since the 1990s. According to a report to Congress in 2010.
In 2006 U.S. attorneys handled 82.8 percent more child pornography cases than they had in 1994.
State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.
ICAC Task Forces noted a more than 1,000 percent increase in complaints of child prostitution from 2004 to 2008.
As of June 2013, the CyberTipline has received more than 1.9 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation since it was launched in 1998. Suspected child sexual exploitation can be reported to the CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com or 1-800-843-5678.
As of June 2013, NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 90 million child pornography images since it was created in 2002.
93 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 go online.
Of children five years old and younger who use the Internet, 80 percent use it at least once a week.
One in 25 children ages 10 to 17 received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.
Four percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude messages to others via text message.
15 percent of cell phone owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude images of someone they know via text.
For more Internet Safety facts, visit www.netsmartz.org/Safety/Statistics.