Crime Prevention Tips for Children
The newspapers and newscasts recently have included several reports of children being abducted. Since these latest abductions, I've received many questions from parents wondering how they can keep their children safe. One recurring question concerns fingerprinting of children. The purpose of fingerprinting is to provide a means of identifying a child. The Crime Prevention Unit at the Springfield Police Department can provide you with a "Take-Home Identification Kit." The kit has eight pages which allows you to add many different things to identify your child including fingerprints. To obtain a take-home I.D. kit, call the Crime Prevention Unit at 874-2113 or send an e-mail to Crime Prevention Unit E-mail. In the meantime, let's review some tips for both children and adults to increase your child's safety.
Begin with the basics:
- Children should know their full name, address including city and state, and phone number including area code.
- Be sure children know how to call 911 and how to use a pay phone.
- Teach children to never accept rides or gifts from someone they don't know.
- Teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard, or police officer for help if they are lost in a mall or store or on the street.
- Children should be accompanied to public rest rooms.
- Teach children that no one, not even someone they know, has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell them they have the right to say "No" in this situation.
- Show children safe places they can go in your neighborhood in an emergency, like a trusted neighbor's house.
- Inspect your neighborhood for areas that threaten children's safety, like brush in wooded areas, overgrown shrubbery, poor lighting, etc.
School starts in a few weeks and children will be encountering new people and new situations. These tips will help at school and play:
- Encourage children to walk and play with friends, not alone. Tell them to avoid places that could be dangerous such as vacant buildings, alleys, new construction, wooded areas, etc.
- Make sure children take the safest routes to and from school, stores, and friend's houses.
- Teach children to walk confidently and to be alert to their surroundings.
- Tell children to avoid strangers who may hang around playgrounds, public rest rooms, empty buildings, etc.
- Teach children to always take the same way home from school.
- Children should not walk next to curbs.
- Children should not wear expensive jewelry or clothing to school.
- A child should check in with a parent or trusted neighbor as soon as he arrives home from school. Someone should know if he is staying late at school.
- Parents should listen carefully to children's fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts. Take complaints about bullies seriously.
- Children should be taught to settle arguments with words, not fists or weapons.
- Children should be taught never to take guns, knives, or other weapons to school. They should tell a school official immediately if they see another student with a weapon.
These tips for parents will help prevent child sexual abuse:
- Talk to your child every day and take time to really listen and observe. Learn as many details as you can about your child's activities and feelings. Encourage him or her to share concerns and problems with you.
- Let your children know that they can tell you anything and that you'll be supportive.
- Teach your child that no one, including teachers or close relatives, has the right to touch him or her in a way that feels uncomfortable. It's ok to say no, get away, and tell a parent or trusted adult.
- Don't force kids to kiss or hug or sit on someone's lap if they don't want to. This gives them control and teaches them that they have the right to refuse.
- Always know where your child is and who he or she is with.
- Tell your child to stay away from strangers who hang around playgrounds, public rest rooms, and schools.
- Be alert for changes in your child's behavior that could signal sexual abuse such as sudden secretiveness, withdrawal from activities, refusal to go to school, unexpected hostility toward a favorite baby-sitter or relative, or increased anxiety. Some physical signs include bed-wetting, loss of appetite, venereal disease, nightmares, and complaints of pain or irritation around the genitals.
Don't forget to have your child fingerprinted. And in the meantime, discuss these tips with your child.