Newschannel 6 is looking out for you and the safety of your family. 2,000 children a day are reported missing, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The stats show that 58,000 cases a year involve strangers. Newschannel 6 went to the experts to give you the tools you need to protect your child from danger.
Wichita Falls Police Officer Jeff Hughes says education is the key. "The first thing is to teach them what a stranger is. A stranger is someone that they don't know and that their parent doesn't know. A lot of times a person will have the approach of 'hey I know your mom' and they think that must be okay," said Hughes.
Wichita Falls Mom Bobbie Reynolds and her husband Jimmie Jr. teach their son Little Jimmie about strangers. Still, they worry about his safety. "We live just down the street from his school but we still drive him anyway," said Bobbie.
Despite the teaching, Bobbie was concerned about how Little Jimmie would actually react in a real world situation. She worked with Newschannel 6 to set up a scenario and put him to the test with hidden cameras.
Newschannel 6 crews set up a camera in the bushes outside Lucy Land at Lucy Park. The Reynolds took Little Jimmie to go play, and then sat off in the distance to watch. Newschannel 6 Paul Harrop fixed a hidden camera to his clothing. He walked around the park, carrying a leash, hollering for what would seem to be a missing dog.
When Harrop received the signal from Bobbie Reynolds, he approached Little Jimmie on the playground. "Hey kid," ask Harrop, "Have you seen a little dog running around here? It's a little brown one." Little Jimmie responded "No. I think you should talk to my parents." The child, 8, then ran over to where his mom and dad were sitting.
The boy's reaction pleased Bobbie and Jimmie Jr. "I was really hoping that he would do the right thing but I wasn't 100% sure… He surprised us," said Bobbie. Jimmie, the younger, was surprised too. "I thought 'who is this guy?'... I said let me speak to my parents about that… Because I didn't know you and you might snatch me and run off," he said. "That's good because he's never met a stranger. He talks to anybody," said his father Jimmie Jr.
Little Jimmie has been taught well at home and at school about the threat strangers can pose. "I even watched the stranger danger movie," he said he even knows how to teach his friends about the danger. "I'd tell them not to listen to strangers just ignore them use self defense moves if you need to."
There are other things you can do to add a layer of protection for your child. Hughes says you should also never write your child's name on the outside of clothing or backpacks. "We can't do anything about a criminal's desire and ability to commit a crime but we have everything to do with opportunity and by teaching our kids who and what a stranger is. Then were taking away some of that opportunity," said Hughes.
If you would like to read more on the threats posed by strangers, you can see a comprehensive FAQ on the NCFMEC web site.