OLYMPIA - Attorney General Rob McKenna today joined Washington’s Communities Against Predators in sharing tips for parents to improve child safety and prevent child abductions. The Attorney General’s Office is part of a national coalition taking part in Safe Child Week, a week-long event to educate children and caregivers about preventing abductions.
“As parents, one of our worst fears is having a child taken by a stranger, but the good news is that there are some basic precautions we can all take to keep our kids safe,” McKenna said. “I hope all parents and caregivers take a few minutes to review these life-saving tips.”
McKenna reminded parents that as sex predators have become increasingly more sophisticated, the “Stranger Danger” message is no longer the most effective way to protect children. More and more frequently, predators groom families and children in order to gain their trust before victimizing them.
In 2006, the Attorney General’s Office released a Child Abduction Murder Study containing an expert review of nearly 800 child abduction murders. The study found that in 44 percent of cases, the victims and killers were strangers. But in 42 percent of the cases, the victims and killers were friends or acquaintances.
McKenna today provided five “Tips of the Day” to parents in honor of Safe Child Week:
• “Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to their responses.” (Audio)
• “Remind your children it’s OK to say no to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused and teach your children to tell you if anything or anyone makes them feel this way.” (Audio)
• “Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.” (Audio)
• “Teach your children to never approach a vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner AND are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.” (Audio)
• “Practice ‘what if’ situations and ask your children how they would respond. ‘What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Who would you ask?’” (Audio)
Every year in America, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 children each day. An analysis of attempted abduction cases by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found that in 88 percent of the cases, the child escaped would-be abductors through their own actions. Forty-one percent actively resisted (yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention) while 47 percent recognized something was not right and responded by walking or running away.
In 2006, the Attorney General’s Office worked with victim advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors to draft a comprehensive package of bills to protect children from sex predators. All were passed by the legislature (PDF).
One of the new laws established the crime of Criminal Trespass Against a Child (PDF). It was the first law in the nation to give employees at facilities where children congregate the authority to order out certain registered sex offenders. Offenders who refuse to obey such orders can be charged with an unranked Class C felony punishable by a maximum one year in prison.
For more information about Safe Child Week, including local educational opportunities, visit Washington Communities Against Predators at http://www.wash-cap.org.
Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725