Preventing Child Abduction
Nearly 800,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing each year in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The American Journal of Nursing reports 10 mothers a year have had their infants snatched from their own homes.
Cases of kidnapped babies taken from public places like homes, parking lots, and shopping malls have doubled -- even as tighter security has cut the number of newborns stolen from hospitals and health centers by half.
What Moms Can Do about Preventing Child Abduction
"Safety Chick" Kathleen Baty gives moms pointers for decreasing your children's odds of becoming a victim.
Watch who you associate with. The majority of abducted children are taken by someone they know. That's why you have to be especially careful about who you surround yourself with and who you let into your home. Before you hire a carpet-cleaning company, for instance, make sure they do background checks on employees before letting a worker into your house.
Use common sense. Make sure to lock all doors and windows every night.
Create a "perimeter of safety" around your house. Install sensor lights. Criminals don't want to be seen. If there's a spotlight that goes on when they enter your yard, that could be a deterrent.
"Stalk yourself." Take a walk around your house and see what strangers can see. Can they see into your drapes or blinds? Make sure no one can see into your children's rooms, especially. You don't want someone to be able to see where your child sleeps from the street.
Get an alarm system in the home. You want to know the second someone is entering ... not wait to find out until they're at the foot of your bed or in your child's room.
Get alarmed screens. That way, you can still open windows and get fresh air in the day, but if the screen is cut or removed, the alarm will go off. These would have been especially helpful in the Elizabeth Smart abduction, because he came in through a window.
If you want to go the extra mile, create a "safe room" in your house. Baty recommends a walk-in closet that doesn't have windows. Install a bolt lock high enough on the door that your kids can't reach it, and keep a baseball bat and a plugged-in cell phone in that room at all times. Program the number of your local police department into that phone.
Make sure your kids know if there is a burglar in the house, everyone should meet in the "safe room." Then, if an emergency strikes, lock yourself in and call the police.
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