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Crime prevention and safety: Child abduction
FEW moments, hours or days... or years... can be terrifying when a child has disappeared. It is enough to wrench the heart right out of a caring parent's chest. The fact is: child abduction happens. In the event, the risk is real. Here's what you can do to prevent it and then, what to do if it happens to you.
Most children reported as abducted have either run away or are "lost" (but then found) as a result of a misunderstanding about where they were supposed to be. But there remains that small risk of horrible crime that the child must learn to avoid.
* Have a recent photo of your child handy at all times.
* Set age-appropriate boundaries for your child.
* Never leave a young child alone in a public place. Leaving an infant in a parked car while you run in for groceries may be convenient but it may also be putting your child at great risk. Give each child receive, at a bare minimum, these basic instructions:
* No need to spook the child must they need to be aware of the risk, and that inevitably requires some "spooking". Be direct but don't make it overly frightening as you may mark the child for life and spark lifelong fears and paranoia. Give each child receive, at a bare minimum, these basic instructions:
* Make sure the child knows that most abuse and abductions occur by a family friend or relative (about 75%). In any event, coach the child to make a ruckus, yell "No!" if someone asks, or tries, to touch their private parts, or grabs them in a threatening manner. Get away as quickly as possible and most importantly. Tell a parent or another trusted adult about the approach the person made to you. Speak up! It could save your life!
* The bare fact is that most child abductors are men.
* Don't go anywhere, accept any gift or enter any stranger's car without checking with a parent of guardian.
* Going outside alone means being outside a parent's eyesight and exposure, in particular, to passing-by vehicle traffic. Make the child aware of the remote but real risk of child abductors and that the offenders are quite capable of using trickery to entice a child away, such as "can you help me look for my puppy?" or "can you come here and tell me where I am on this map?" We raise our children to be polite and this is exploited by the abductors who use this to lure the child.
* Adjust these instructions from time to time as the relevant child grows older. Teenagers are not exempt or immune from the interests of child abductors or sexual abusers. The Internet appears to be a portal of choice for pedophiles.
If the child has gone missing from home, search the house first. Kids love crawl spots and may be stuck or fallen asleep. Don't be shy to call your child loudly by name even in your own house. Kids can get lost trying to return home - they may not have been abducted; they may simply be lost. Retrace their route home as well as possible accidental detours they may have taken. Chase down their friends who may have seen them last - use the phone first - time may be of the essence. If in doubt, call the police immediately. Be prepared to provide your child's name, height, weight and all unique identifiers such as eye colour, hair colour and length, clothes last worn, eyeglasses or braces.