How to protect your children against abduction

It's a sad fact that thousands of children are reported missing each year. Know how to protect your children against abduction by strangers.

What YOU should do:

  • Know your child's whereabouts at all times.
  • At a very early age, teach your child their name, address and telephone number and your first and last name.
  • Teach them how to call 9-1-1 for help. When using the telephone for these lessons, make sure the call to 9-1-1 doesn't actually connect.
  • Make sure children know how to make local and long distance telephone calls.
  • Never leave children alone in a car, not even for a few seconds.
  • Establish strict procedures for picking up children at school, after movies, at friends' homes, etc.
  • Establish a family code word that only you, your child and a trusted relative or friend knows. Teach your child to ask for the code word when approached by someone offering them a ride.
  • Remind your children to never accept a ride from someone you don't know, even if the child knows them.
  • Talk to your children about child abduction in a simple, non-threatening way.
  • Listen to your child when he or she discusses anyone they have met or spoken with when you weren't around.
  • Have photographs taken of your children at least four times a year (especially for preschoolers). Make note of birthmarks or other distinguishing features.
  • Have your child fingerprinted and store the prints in a safe, easily accessible place in your home.

Teach your children to:

  • never leave home without your permission. Very small children should play only in areas away from the street, such as a backyard, or in a play area supervised by a responsible adult.
  • never wander off, to avoid lonely places, and to avoid shortcuts through alleys or deserted areas. They are safer walking or playing with friends.
  • come straight home from school unless you have made other arrangements.
  • never enter anyone's home without your approval.
  • scream, run away and tell you or a trusted adult if anyone attempts to touch or grab them, of if a stranger offers them a ride.
  • never give any information over the telephone including their name and address, or indicate they are alone.
  • keep doors locked and admit only authorized people into the house.

Rules for baby-sitters:

  • Leave a number where you, a neighbor or relative can be reached in the event of an emergency. In addition, if you have a cell phone, give the sitter that number and carry your phone with you while you're out. Make sure the battery is fully charged before you leave.
  • Never allow the sitter to admit strangers into your home. The best rule: no company allowed.
  • Instruct the sitter that phone use is for emergencies only, not for chatting with friends.
  • Leave the number for your local law enforcement agency and tell the sitter to call immediately if there are any signs of suspicious activity or unusual noises.

The Broward Sheriff's Office offers many programs to educate children about stranger abduction. If you have any questions regarding the Stranger Danger program offered by BSO's Countywide Operations, contact (954) 321-4100.

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