Though sex-offender John Albert Gardner III had been jailed before, he was roaming the streets a free man when he allegedly raped and murdered high-school student Chelsea King. As parents, there are things we can do to protect our kids.
Chelsea King, a 17-year-old high-school student, was jogging in a San Diego park when she was reportedly raped and murdered by John Albert Gardner III. In 2000, Gardner had pled guilty to molesting a 13-year-old girl -- for which he served just five years in jail.
Trudy Dana, of the Lynnwood, WA. Police Department's Crime Prevention Center, has been working in the field of child safety for 35 years and has written two books on the subject. She has this good advice for momlogic parents:
Recognize the real risks. Abduction by a stranger isn't one of them. According to law enforcement, more than 90 percent of abduction cases involve someone the child knows. Though you can't ignore the possibility of a stranger grabbing your child, it's not likely to happen.
Reassure your kids. Talk to them. Tell them, "This will probably never happen to you, honey, but should a man pull up in a car and try to grab you, shout and holler as best you can."
Don't instill fear in your kids. It will do more harm than good. If they inquire about something happening to a child, communicate openly -- but try to stay away from saying scary things like, "If you play alone in the backyard, someone might get you."
Role-play with your children. Say that a man in a suit who's driving a nice car pulls over with a map and tells your child, "I'm late. Can you help me?" Most of the time, kids will go to the car. Abductors have "hooks" to lure children in: "I have a lost dog;" "Look at these puppies," etc. Tell kids about these situations and teach them to leave immediately! Always role-play that a man is the offender, because almost all sex-offenders are men.
Keep computers and telephones out of your kids' rooms. Especially if they're teenagers! Leave computers in family areas.
Talk to your kids about surfing the Web. Be open, so they'll communicate with you. For example, say something like, "Sometimes if you type in something, a picture of a naked person may show up. If that happens, don't worry. Just tell Mommy, OK?"
Tell your child not to volunteer information. They should never give out info about themselves via the Internet. Educate them about the fact that people online lie, lie, lie.
Be involved. If your child does have a computer in his or her room, keep the door open and make frequent visits. Find a million reasons to go in and out of that room.
Know where your kids are going. Create parameters for the neighborhood: Set areas that are off-limits.
Take neighborhood precautions. If you know that a registered sex-offender lives in the area, don't alarm your kids. Just calmly say something like, "Honey, we're not going to visit that house when we sell Girl Scout Cookies, OK?"
Don't let them exercise alone. Does your teenager, like Chelsea King, run or exercise outside? Tell her to carry pepper spray, to know where she's running and to always bring a cell phone along. Better yet, go with her: Follow her on a bike or in the car.
Use caution in public places. Don't drop your child off at a public place alone; make sure he or she always has adult accompaniment. (When kids are a little older, they can go in a group.)
School your kids about strangers. Teach your children that you will never arrange for a stranger to pick them up -- they will always be picked up by someone they know. Tell them that if a stranger does try to pick them up from school, they make a fuss and alert a teacher. (The offender will likely go away.)