Abductions can be avoided with planning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tribune editorial staff

We read headlines nearly every day reporting the abduction of a child. But one little girl in Utah is at home safe, thanks to forward-thinking parents.

West Valley City police say a 9-year-old girl may have avoided capture at the hands of a kidnapper because her parents taught her what to do.

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The girl was walking home from an after-school activity when a man pulled up in a car and told her he had come to pick her up at her parent's request. The girl asked for a pre-arranged "code word," which the suspect could not provide, prompting the girl to run away.

The suspect chased the girl for a short time, but she made it back to the school and reported the attempted kidnapping to her principal.

This is a classic example of how taking preventive measures can avert a tragedy.

As responsible Americans, we have got to do whatever it takes to keep children our children safe, and prevention is the key. Today is National Missing Children's Day, so it is a perfect time to educate ourselves on ways to prevent kidnapping.

The problem of missing children in our country is beyond alarming. Approximately 800,000 are reported missing in the United States every year - some of which never return home. According to the Child Shield U.S.A. National Network, The FBI receives more than 2,000 missing child reports every day.

Most abductions are done by luring children to a vehicle rather than taking them by force, so it is key to teach our children what to do if approached by a stranger.

In addition to the "code word" technique, children should be taught not to go anywhere alone, not to help an adult they do not know, never to walk up to an unfamiliar car, to scream loudly if someone is trying to take them and, most important, run away.

In most cases involving strangers, the kidnapper does not want attention drawn to them. These simple techniques could mean the difference between life and death.

Children may be smaller and weaker than would-be abductors, but with their parents' help, they can learn techniques to resist and escape predators.