Help Your Kids Stay Alert, Stay Safe
By Lisa E. Stafford
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Dec. 1, 1998 It's what every parent fears most -- suddenly discovering their child is missing or has been abducted. And statistics still show that parents face this frightening reality more so every day.
According to the Department of Justice the number of missing and abducted children cases are continuing to rise. In fact, a new case was reported every 40 seconds last year.
The FBI National Crime Information Center estimates parents reported about 850,000 children missing in 1997," said D'Ann Taflin, spokeswoman of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Arlington, Va.
"The number of missing persons reported to law enforcement officials has increased nearly every year since Congress passed the Missing Children's Act in 1982," she said. While there was only a slight increase in the number of reported cases over the last two years, reported cases are up by 535 percent since 1982, Taflin said.
To help keep children safe the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children suggest parents take the following precautions and to teach their children to:
- Avoid talking to strangers.
- Not to go with anyone who tries to offer them money or candy, or asks for help in looking for a lost pet, for directions or help in finding an address.
- Memorize their full names, addresses, phone numbers and their parents' names.
- Dial "911" or "0" in case of emergencies.
- Get help from teachers, policemen, fire fighters, store clerks and security guards, or find safe havens such as a library, a friend's house in the neighborhood or a church when they feel threatened.
- Never to open the door to a stranger when left home alone and not to say they're alone when they answer the phone. Have them tell the caller instead that you're not available and ask if they can take a message?
- Scream "No!" or "Stop!" and run away to a place where there are a lot of people if someone tries to grab them.
- Never take shortcuts through dark alleys or deserted streets.
- Ask for your permission before accepting a neighbor's invitation to visit.
- Yell loudly for help if they are trapped in someone's car. Parents should also know these helpful hints to help keep children safe:
- Play what-if role games. Rehearse situations and how to handle them.
- Create a secret family code word and tell children not to go with anyone who does not know the secret word.
- Don't display children's names in their clothes or on their book bags or lunch boxes.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has assisted law enforcement authorities in 61,000 cases involving missing children and has helped reunite over 41,000 children with their families.
For more information, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or on their Web site at www.missingkids.com. The Department of Justice also has a Web site with information and safety tips for children, parents and teachers at www.usdoj.gov/kidspage. You can also contact The National Missing Children Division, National Child Safety Council, at www.800usakids.org. [link no longer available]
"Most parents don't think about their children's potential risk for being abducted until it's too late," Taflin added. "Don't mistakenly think an abduction could never happen to you or your child."