LAWTON, Okla._This week's abduction and murder of a 10-year-old Missouri girl has parents across the nation fearing the very same thing could happen to their child and wondering if it can be prevented.
A tri-state Amber Alert was issued Tuesday after neighbors witnessed Hailey Owens' abduction from their front lawn and called police. One of them even jumped in his car and chased after the suspect and wrote down the truck's plate number. Even little Hailey kept her distance from the strange man after he called to her. Now Lawton Police are looking to what can be done to prevent an abduction when all the right safety measures fail.
Awareness is key, so talk to your children about strangers. Kids tend to be trusting and are easily drawn into potentially dangerous situations. So make sure they know who strangers are and that if they are approached, to get away as fast as possible.
"Yell fire! And run as far away as you can as fast as you can," that's what Lawton Police Sergeant Tonya Criger tells kids to do when they get into a bad situation. "If kids yell fire it tends to draw the attention more than when they yell help."
Martial arts instructor, David Scott, said teaching children simple self defense tactics can also help, "If a stranger tries to approach you, back them off a little. Use your hands and get serious with them and yell right in their face. Sometimes that shock is enough so you can run away to your care giver."
Scott stressed that skills gained in self defense and martial arts classes provide kids with confidence, which is key, "Then they don't look like a victim and that is very important for the children."
But the most important thing to do as a parent is make sure that you talk to your children about strangers and what to do when they come into contact with them, whether it be on a playground or in their neighborhood.
"You have to talk to your kids about strangers. If you don't know the person, don't talk to them. Keep walking, don't stop. If you are on your bicycle, keep riding. Find a safe house and let an adult know that you are in trouble," said Criger.
Sergeant Criger stresses that kids need to be able to distinguish the difference between a good stranger like a police officer versus a bad stranger that may want to cause harm to them. "Make sure that you tell your child that no adult should ask a child for help with anything. It should be the children asking the adults for help."
Sergeant Criger also said the importance of everyone paying attention in your neighborhoods. If something draws your attention, there is a reason that it is drawing your attention. Don't think that you are being overly protective or cautious. Trust your instincts. And never be afraid to call 911.