From An SRO… Preventing A Child’s Abduction

FPS School Resource Officer Chad Moen

It’s the scenario we fear the most with our children.  And with the Halloween holiday just around the corner, the conversation is certainly appropriate. Have you had the talk with your trick-or-treater?

October 22, 1989.  June 28, 1993.  November 22, 2003.

Fargo and its surrounding communities are great places to raise children.  The air is clean, the schools are great, crime is low and it’s hard to find a safer area in the entire nation.  But we are not immune from bad things happening here.  The above dates are reminders of when Jacob Wetterling, Jeanna North, and Dru Sjodin were abducted.

Jacob and Jeanna were both 11, and Dru was 22 years old when they were taken from areas that anyone would consider safe.  None of them were found alive.  If you don’t know their stories, a simple Google search will reveal the tragic details.

Here are the five most common ways people try to lure children:

  • Offer a ride.
  • Offer candy.
  • Show them an animal or ask for help finding an animal.
  • Offer money.
  • Asking for directions.

Parents are usually very good at telling kids not to do something dangerous, such as “Don’t take candy from a stranger.”  We should continue to do this but also empower our children by giving them ideas of what they can do.  The FBI studied over 4,000 failed abduction attempts between 2005 and 2010, and found that only 16% were foiled by help from adult.  The other 84% were the result of the child’s own actions such as running away, yelling, kicking and pulling away.

As a parent it’s hard to know when to have these conversations.  What is the right age?  How do I avoid scaring them?  You don’t have to sit them down and have a serious conversation.  It can start with just a simple question as you’re driving or walking with your child.  Ask them a scenario question such as “What would you do if a stranger offered you a ride?”  How they answer will help you determine how to follow up that question.  You may decide to leave the discussion at “Don’t accept rides from strangers.”  Or it may open the door for further scenarios with advice from you on how to handle that situation.  If your son or daughter tells you they would run, follow up with good examples of where they could run to – a school, a church, a store, a crowded park, someone’s house, etc.

You don’t have to have this conversation all at once.  At another time, bring up another scenario.  Try to cover all of the luring techniques mentioned above.  Give advice and options on how your child can react.  Discuss safe areas and people they can run to, how they can fight back and what they should say.  Yelling “This person is not my Mom/Dad!” is a great way to draw attention.

Make sure that kids know they should never take candy, money, gifts or rides from anyone without permission from a parent.  Even if that person has given them a ride in the past, make sure they ask for permission every time.  Kids should never approach a stranger in a vehicle.  They should never help with directions or finding a lost animal without first checking with a parent.  Teach your children to check with you before any change of plans such as going from one friend’s house to another and not to go anywhere alone.

For more safety tips you can check out the following websites or contact me directly.

(School Resource Officer Chad Moen is assigned to Fargo North High School. He is a 10-year veteran of law enforcement, the former SRO to Ben Franklin Middle School, and is the Know Your Body curriculum liaison to Longfellow and McKinley Elementary Schools.)