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Preventing children from abductions

Updated December 23, 2009

Child abductions have received extensive media coverage during the past year. In light of these cases, it is important for parents to be aware of the dangers that exist and to know how to protect their children.

In conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and its California Branch, the Crime Prevention Unit at the Cerritos Sheriff’s Station/Community Safety Center offers parents four terms to familiarize themselves with to help protect their children: Situations, Actions, Supervision and Communication.


Situations refer to the circumstances associated with unsolicited contact. The term “stranger” should not be emphasized to children because it implies that there is an oddity about a dangerous person that makes them stand out. Children could have a great deal of difficulty understanding this concept, and could also become vulnerable when approached by a “normal looking” person.

There is no real need for any adult to solicit the assistance of a child in solving a particular problem such as locating a lost pet or asking for directions. Children should never approach a vehicle or a pedestrian in response to such requests, or for any reason. They should not accept food or gifts from someone other than a trusted adult or friend.

Children should also be taught to be wary of an adult telling them that his or her parents sent the person to take them to the parents for some urgent situation. These are just a few examples of situations to be avoided.


Actions refer to the suggestions or actual physical contact made during these situations. Any discussion of secrets or other information that a child is told cannot be shared with a parent is unacceptable.

A child must be leery of any “touching.” An area of the body normally covered by a bathing suit is inappropriate to touch or be touched. Youngsters should not fear saying no to anything that makes them uncomfortable. Apprehension in certain circumstances is a positive emotion. If a child is approached in a threatening or annoying manner, the more noise that can be made to attract attention, the better.


Supervision is crucial to the safety of your children, and a responsibility to be shared by all parents and guardians. Set boundaries regarding the places that they can go and the things that they may do. Know where they are at all times and be familiar with their friends and daily activities. Monitor their Internet use and the content accessed.

A trusted adult should always supervise a child in a public place at all times. If you are not physically with your child on an outing, you should be notified immediately if there is any change in plans. Be cautious about babysitters and alert for anyone showing an unusual amount of attention to your child or providing them with gifts.


Communication can strengthen your child's awareness and allow you to learn more about activities that he or she is engaging in. Encourage children to use their instincts in determining what may be inappropriate behavior, and listen to what they have to say. Watch for any changes in your child both physically and emotionally. Reinforce the importance of the “buddy system,” and the absolute need for them to check in with you on a regular basis. If they become lost in a public place, they should know not to continue roaming around, but rather to locate an employee or law enforcement officer and tell them what has happened.

Assure your children that their safety is your main concern and that it requires trust and a dialogue. There is nothing that your children should feel uncomfortable talking to you about.

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