As school starts, safety’s a priorityPublished 5:00am Saturday, September 5, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Since the discovery of Jaycee Dugard was found alive, 18 years after she was abducted at age 11, the details of her time imprisoned by her abductor and those moments shared with her family since being reunited, have been making headlines in national newspapers and on television news circuits across the country.
The story is a rare, happy ending to a painful ordeal so many families endure.
With the first days of school now just a three-day weekend away, many parents and children are gearing up for early mornings, packed lunches and homework in the evenings.
And as many children make the walk to and from school on a daily basis, out and about with friends and enjoying the last bits of decent weather before the winter season – it would seem that more parents will likely take into consideration the need to educate their children on how to keep themselves safe from strangers.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says parents should make sure children know to “always check first with a parent, guardian or trusted adult before going anywhere, accepting anything or getting into a car with anyone.”
Officials with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department, agreed that this time of year is a good one for parents to discuss safety with children.
Though school officials are able to monitor students while on school property, once they have left those borders it’s up to parents and children themselves to be smart and aware of their surroundings.
More tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when talking to children about being safe include advising children to:
• Not go out alone, always take a friend when going to play outside
• Say ‘no’ if anyone tries to touch or treat them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared or confused and leave the situation as quickly as possible
• Tell a parent, guardian or other trusted adult should one make them feel scared or uncomfortable
• Remember they have a right to feel safe
The organization also notes a shift in social perceptions – stating that children do not carry the same concepts of what constitutes a “stranger” as their parents might have had.
Older children should also be reminded to be careful and aware. Dugard was 11 years old when she was snatched on her way to the school bus, her stepfather – witnessing what was happening from a significant distance away, and the NCMEC said those between the ages of “11 and 17 are equally sat risk to victimization.”
In Michigan, three primary programs have been developed when it comes to handling cases of child abduction. The Michigan State Police define those programs as:
“Eagle Eye/Child Net Program – A partnership with the United States Postal Service that utilizes postal carriers in the search for missing children. Postal carriers are provided a missing child flier, and while they are on their normal delivery routes they search for the child.
LOCATER – “Lost Child Alert Technology Resource” will soon be operational to assist law enforcement in Michigan find missing children. LOCATER is an advanced computer system with software that creates posters of missing children for distribution nation-wide.
Amber Alert of Michigan – The Michigan Amber Alert plan is a partnership between law enforcement and the media to help in the immediate dissemination of information to the public about an endangered missing child. Amber Alert of Michigan is supported by the Michigan Department of State Police, Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Sheriff’s Association, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters.”