Residents of Chicago’s best and worst and every one of our neighborhoods, you think there are problems from the drug dealers and users, alcoholics, weapons runners and teens who rob stores and are part of gangs, there is another problem to add to the mix. You need ever more to be aware of homegrown predators and terrorists: the child molester and abductor.
Recent news of a man in a neighborhood attempting to get two children, ages 7 and 4, into his car by luring them with candy, emphasizes the need to review safety rules and teach your children and others in your area about these problems. Candy luring is one of the old ways to attract the attention of kids, and some may be easily attracted to the sweets and treats they might not have access to at home, during the day, or even at all if home rules or their health rules are against having sweets.
Be sure to sit down and talk with your children, of any age where they can understand you and follow verbal instructions, about the people they can and cannot trust. The old rule applies: DO NOT TALK TO STRANGERS! Tell them about the people they can trust, such as police officers, fire fighters, ambulance personnel, doctors, nurses, pastors/priests, people you know and see regularly. Introduce the child to these people and explain the reason for your wanting them to get to know these folks. Also tell them there are places they can go if they are in a state of being threatened. They can go, for instance, to a fire station, police station, hospital, church or synagogue, and tell someone there what is happening.
It is a good time also to sharpen visual skills. Many times it is not possible for a child to give a good description of a molester or someone following them- the child is frightened or rushed or hurried or troubled and they might have to run away when the sense of being threatened is upon them. They could tell the police that someone in a blue car with white stripes may have been following them down a certain street, or it could be a for-sure description as of that given of the tear-drop tattoo suspect that followed those two kids in the past few days. Naturally it is not good to wait long around such situations, and many kids cannot give good descriptions. At such times, you can tell them they can run away, scream, fight back against the aggravator, anything to attract attention and drive the suspect off. But you might give children a chance by asking them to practice describing people or other things they see as best they can within a few seconds of looking at something.
Aside from enhancing the young one’s perception of color, shapes, and appearance of things, they can learn how to be polite to the police officers and firefighters in their area and get to know them and trust that they can ask those folks anything and discuss important things or something that bothers them. Now as relates to descriptions, the child should be able to tell the trustworthies that it was a “red car, two doors, with a scratch/dent/rust/missing mirror” and it went down that street.” Some kids might be able to tell the officers that it was a certain model or make of car, and some might even be able to remember a license plate, but a simple description should be enough to get a search started.
More safety tips include: do not let your child’s name be seen on anything exposed to general view, such as a backpack, sweater, jacket or bookbag. A stranger could easily call out from a car, “Angela, come with me to your mommy’s house,” giving the child the impression that the person knows them or their family. Tell them to refuse the offer and run away instantly and quickly to seek help. Do not let them walk alone even around the block and especially toward dark. Ensure they are with someone familiar and that you know where they are going and the errand to be done. Make sure that any toys or a bicycle or tricycle is not left exposed outside- child molesters and sex offenders might be searching for homes where children are present and playing or where they live or are even visiting. Do not give any impression, if possible, that there are young children in the household. Watch at night in the neighborhood and report any suspicious vehicles or people wandering around your home, in an alley, or standing on a corner near where young children walk or gather or catch the bus.
The important thing is to instill a sense of safety and trust in the children, to let them know they can trust you and those people you know and the first reponders in the area. Teach them to take active roles in community service and cleanup days such as those the Chicago Park District is offering during spring and summer. This will help them get to know people in the area and know who lives there, the streets and numbers and directions, and take pride in their communities. These are lessons they can share with others.
By following basic and logical practices, you can make your family, young relatives and visitors, and the community a safer and better place to live, work, and play. Take pride, take heart, watch out for each other, and enjoy life!
Divi Logan and ®EDUSHIRTS, Nashville and Chicago, ©2004 -2012.