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With child abductions topping news, parents urged to teach caution

The faces and places change, but the stories that have dominated the headlines this summer have had one common but chilling theme -- children abducted from their homes and yards, some never to be seen alive again.

While Lawrence County has escaped the glaring spotlight of this publicity, parents still worry. Could it happen here?

It could. Local law enforcement officials say no town is immune from crime.

"People become accustomed to the security of a small town, and they don't realize small towns have the same problems as big towns do," Capt. Chris Bowman, detective of the Ironton Police Department, said. "We don't want to scare people, but we do want them to be aware."

According to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the most important thing for children and parents to do is talk and listen to each other. They also stress that while children need to be careful and

aware of their surroundings and situations, they do not need to be afraid.

The NCMEC has other suggestions for keeping children safe as well:

-- The term "stranger" may be a term that young children can't understand. Instead, children should be taught to be aware of certain situations or actions instead of certain people.

Parents should tell children that it is OK to be suspicious of adults that ask for help, for instance.

Children should be taught to never

believe a person who says they're lost or looking for a lost puppy or who say their mother and father said to go with them.

Children should be taught to stay away from individuals in cars or vans and understand that it is OK to say "no" to an adult in these situations.

-- Kids should always let their parents know where they'll be and what friends they'll be with.

"I don't mean to sound hard," Ironton Police Chief Bill Garland said. "But parents should keep track of their kids and know where they are. So many times, I've had to call a parent and say 'Do you know where your child is?' A child will get away with anything he can. That's just kids. Check up on them when they're visiting friends."

-- If a child gets separated from their parents in a public place, they should be taught to go to a checkout counter, the security office or a lost and found area and tell them they are lost.

-- Children should be taught never to travel alone.

-- Children should be taught never to allow a stranger to take their picture and if someone asks or tries, to alert authorities immediately.

-- Children should understand that they should never leave home or a play area or school unless they get permission from a parent, teacher or someone in charge.

--Encourage your child to be alert in the neighborhood, and tell an

adult -- you, a teacher, a neighbor or a police officer -- about anything he or she sees that doesn't seem quite right.

-- Be aware of what your child is viewing on the Internet. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that one in five children (10 to 17 years old) receive unwanted sexual solicitations online.

These predators often attempt to meet the children they communicate with on the Net. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune