Mar 03 2014
A scary thing happened last week in Westchester, CA, a lovely residential suburb on the westside of Los Angeles. The kind of place where you don’t expect bad things to happen, like the attempted abduction of a child… especially in broad daylight. But that’s exactly what happened. A brazen attempted kidnapping, in the middle of the day, on a busy, main street in town.
The scenario: a nanny walking with the 2 young children she cares for, a 4 year old boy and his 6 year old brother. Their typical walk home like any other day. In broad daylight, on this busy thoroughfare, a man in his 30’s races up to the nanny, assaults her, grabs the 4 year old and tries to run off with him. In the chaos that follows, the nanny screams for help. Thankfully, a hero named Jesus Delgado working in a nearby taco stand, heard her cries and sprang into action. After chasing the attacker for two blocks, Delgado finally caught up with him and rescued the boy.
He held the would-be kidnapper until police arrived. The 4 year old is safe with his family, and Jesus Delgado is rightfully hailed as a hero… a man who didn’t stop to think, just reacted to the cry for help and acted fast.
It’s the kind of frightening story that naturally scares parents to their very core. Our sense of vulnerability suddenly a stinging slap in the face. There is a need for answers and for reassurance. How can we prevent this?
Random “snatch and run’s” as they are referred to, are rare occurrences. Statistically, most child abductions are “familial” in nature, by someone the child knows (a non-custodial parent or other relative). But reality dictates that we must always be vigilant when we’re out and about. Whether you’re with your kids or not. Whether you live in small town USA or a big, urban area.
A perp. looks for quick easy access and a target that looks like they either won’t put up a fight, or will be caught off guard and slow to react. Even a perp. who is emotionally unstable is very often calculating enough to assess their target beforehand to see if they can proceed.
It’s not about living in fear. It’s about being aware, and you should be able to walk in your own neighborhood without feeling like a potential victim every time you open your front door. Your best defense is to stay alert, be pro-active. For starters, put out a vibe that you’re not an “easy target.”
• As adults, we tend to be less guarded and more distracted in our own neighborhoods and communities because it’s our familiar turf. It’s important to walk “like you mean it”, with a purpose: eyes always alert to anyone nearby who seems “off” in any way, or who starts to get in your personal space, or seems interested in watching you. Get out of the “line of crime” quickly. Cross the street as soon as you can. Or go into a nearby store or business. Remove yourself from the other person’s easy access.
• Take in your immediate environment...alleys, doorways, anywhere where you can be “caught by surprise”. If you walk the same route all the time, where are the more vulnerable spots that you should be aware of?
• When you’re in busy areas (parking lots, parks & rec. areas, walking down the street), do a quick visual inventory every now and then. Who’s in your environment?
• Don’t walk with headphones on or while talking on the phone or texting. Distraction means “easy” to a perp.
• You don’t have to be too polite, especially to someone you don’t know. A perp. counts on you being trusting and naiive. If a car pulls up to ask for directions, don’t walk right up and start talking to the occupants. You’d teach your child this; the same goes for us. Especially when we’re with our kids. It can give our kids a mixed message.
• If you do feel that you need to assist someone, don’t get too close and don’t take a lot of time doing it! Keep moving. If someone needs assistance, they can drive to nearby store or gas station to ask for help.
• Young kids who won’t always hold your hand? Then they should be only 2 giant steps away from you. And, this means the grownup has to be even more alert to the surroundings.
• If a child is grabbed, (no matter what age) teach them to “go bananas!” That means scream, kick, and call attention to themselves. They can yell out, “I need help”, “This is not my parent”, “Call 911”.
• If someone says “don’t yell/ don’t run”: do the OPPOSITE. That person is basically saying if YOU yell or run, he’ll have to stop trying to victimize you.
• Keep your cell phone easily accessible… in your pocket, an outer pouch of your purse. It shouldn’t be buried at the bottom of your bag.
• Talk to your nannies or sitters ahead of time and guide them with what they should do to prevent. Anyone caring for kids (parent/sitters, etc.) should be especially alert in parks and rec. areas where there are lots of people, kids are running around, etc.
• The best remedy for worry is: action. Take a pro-active approach to lessen your risk, reduce your vulnerability.
Please remember: Most people you encounter on a daily basis are not child predators. You shouldn’t fear all strangers. There are literally millions of “strangers” who would not harm you or your child. Use common sense, stay alert and aware, empower yourselves and your families.