Children are our most precious resource. Unfortunately, because of their vulnerability, children are popular targets for molesters, drug dealers, and other predatory criminals. By working with children and teaching them crime prevention measures, we can substantially reduce the chances of child victimization.
An important tool for teaching children personal security is reinforcing their trust in the adults who care for them, e.g., parents, police and teachers. To further lessen the chances of children becoming victims, the following objectives should be stressed:
Reassurance: Inform your children they can be safer if they form good habits and follow some simple rules. One good rule for children to remember is: never go anywhere with anyone without their parents’ permission;
Openness: Encourage your children to confide in you, even if the subject feels uncomfortable;
Strangers: Teach your children the difference between good strangers and bad strangers. Good strangers are police officers, teachers and firefighters. Children should seek assistance from them if they are in trouble. Children should avoid other strangers; and
Secrets: Discourage your children from keeping bad secrets. A bad secret is when an adult tells a child to keep information from the child’s parents or guardian. An example would be an adult offering a child candy to get into his or her car and then telling the child not to tell anyone. Another example would be if an adult tries to touch the private body parts of a child and then tells the child not to tell anyone. Private body parts are parts of the body covered by a bathing suit. Child molesters have also been known to approach children and fake a family emergency. A good example would be a child molester who drives to a school bus stop and tells a child, "Your dad is hurt and your mom wants you to come with me to the hospital." The chances are high that a child placed in this circumstance might be tempted to get into the car. That is why parents should select a family code word that they and their children know. If a stranger does not know the code word, the children will know not to trust him or her. A good secret is keeping a family code word confidential.
Children Should Know
- The definition of an emergency and when to contact police, fire or paramedics;
- Their full name, address, and telephone number, including area code;
- Their parents' full name and work telephone number;
- How and when to use 9-1-1 and how to use a public telephone;
- How to use the telephone to call home;
- That they should check in with you or a trusted neighbor when he or she gets home from school so you always know where they are;
- Where to go for safety if you are not around;
- The location of Safe Houses in their neighborhood and the ability to recognize the Safe House Placards;
- Always keep doors locked, even during the day;
- Anyone they don't know is a stranger;
- Stay away from cars occupied by strangers;
- Never open doors for strangers;
- Never tell anyone who comes to the door (or anyone who calls on the telephone) that they are alone;
- When answering the telephone, never give information to strange callers;
- It's OK to say NO to an adult if the adult makes them feel uncomfortable or wants them to do something they feel is bad;
- Never let anyone touch them where their underwear or swimsuit should cover;
- It's OK to run away and scream "HELP" if someone tries to make them do something they don't want to do;
- It's OK to tell if someone offers them gifts or money, or wants to photograph them;
- How to describe a person's appearance, clothing and their car if they are ever approached by a stranger;
- Run to other people and to lighted areas if they are being followed;
- Stay near parents while in a store or other public place;
- Never go out to a parking lot if they get separated from parents in a shopping center or mall;
- Go to the nearest check out counter and ask a cashier or clerk for assistance if they get lost in a store;
- What to do if they should become lost in a crowd;
- Stay in one place if they get lost;
- Never go into a public restroom alone; and
- Never play in abandoned buildings.
Rules For Parents
- Encourage your children to communicate with you. If someone is causing them to be anxious, fearful, or concerned for their safety, but has not attempted overt acts, parents need to know about it;
- Never leave your children unattended;
- Know where your children are at all times;
- Know your children's friends, where they live and their telephone numbers;
- Listen to your children when they tell you they don't want to be with someone and ask why;
- Have your children's school or day care center personnel call immediately if your children are absent;
- Use extreme caution when selecting a babysitter, preschool or day care center. Check their references and have face-to-face meetings with the babysitter, preschool and day care center personnel who will be looking after your children; and
- Get to know your neighbors, especially in a new neighborhood.
Parents Should Know
The Elk Grove Police Department recommends that children not wear clothing with their name prominently displayed. Children may respond to a stranger who calls them by name. If you must mark your child's clothing, don't put the name in an obvious place. Instead, mark the inner lining of a hat or jacket.
Family Safety Plan
Should an emergency occur and someone is designated to pick up your children, make sure you've discussed a code word with your children in advance. The code word acts as a signal to your children that you have sent an authorized person to act on your behalf. Parents should stress the importance of keeping the code word a secret.
Who to Call
In the event your child is missing, spread the word by calling the police, hospitals, schools, neighbors and especially your child's friends. Contact every possible source of help.
Keep an up-to-date identification file of your children. This file should include:
A recent photograph;
A physical description that includes height, weight, hair color, eye color, distinguishing marks and birth date;
A set of fingerprints or thumbprints; and
A mental note of what your children were wearing when you last saw them.
We have attempted to establish a "crime prevention attitude" for parents and children. The importance of practicing a "crime prevention attitude" cannot be stressed enough! Play crime prevention roles with your children and teach them how to respond. If properly prepared, your children will automatically take the correct crime prevention action in a dangerous situation. It is important to practice with your children and to encourage a "crime prevention attitude" in their daily lives.