Parents should protect children from more than stranger-danger - WNEM TV 5

Parents should protect children from more than stranger-danger

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Parents drill stranger-danger into their children, but a predator can be someone the child knows and trusts, authorities say.

Last October, 12-year-old Adriaunna Horton was abducted from a park where she was playing with her sisters and friends.

Authorities have accused the father of one of Adriaunna's friends with abducting her. The man, Bobby Bourne Jr., also worked with Adriaunna's father. Adriaunna's father has said he believes Bourne lured his daughter away by asking her to help find his daughter.

Prosecutors announced earlier this year that they are seeking the death penalty against Bourne. He was in court on Wednesday with a new legal defense team. He has pleaded not guilty.

A 3-year-old southwest Missouri girl was snatched in 2011 while riding her bicycle outside her home. Her neighbor is accused of killing her.

Ariel Castro, who abducted and held three women captive inside his Ohio home for years, kidnapped one of the girls by asking for her help in finding his daughter. Another victim was lured with the promise of a puppy.

Hailey Owens was allegedly lured to her death by a school district employee seeking directions on Tuesday. Owens did not know her accused killer who worked at a different school.

Law enforcement officials recommend that parents develop with their children specific plans to deal with a variety of situations and discourage use of the terms "stranger danger."

"The bad problem is that parents don't come up with plan Bs," said Wyandotte County Sheriff's Office Lt. Kelli Bailif, who has received national recognition for her work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

She said the word "strangers" doesn't begin to cover the dangers that children face. Bailiff said in the vast majority of cases that an abductor is someone the child knows and perhaps even trusts.

"Most people who hurt children don't look like monsters so we need to retire the word stranger because 99 percent of the time kids have seen the person before," she said. "They'll go around for a few days, wave at the kid. The kid waves back. Then he comes back another day and waves at the kid and the kid waves back. After three days is that person a stranger? Absolutely not. That's just a nice person waving and smiling."

Bailiff said parents should ensure their children know whose cars they can and cannot get into. Parents can also implement a password phrase that children and trusted adults should know to ensure children don't get into a vehicle with an acquaintance.

"If cell phones don't work or if people are late, there's no plan B. So don't put your child in a situation where they have to make a decision on their own," Bailiff said. "As an adult, tell them what plan B and what plan C is. That way they understand if you're not there."

Whatever plan you develop, Bailiff emphasized that rules should be simple and clear for young children and should be adjusted as children age. Parents should always be honest and open with their children and develop the best plans to keep them safe.

Hailey's killer allegedly was able to snatch her because she ventured close enough to his vehicle when he was asking for directions.

Teach children not to walk up to a car even if they think they know the person. Tell children to run to the nearest home or business, she advised.

"Adults don't ask kids for directions or to find puppies. Adults ask adults," she said.

Hailey fought her abductor to no avail. Parents should teach their kids how to fend off an abduction, Bailiff said.

"Someone tries to grab them, fall on the ground, put your feet in the air, kick, bite, scream," she said. "A lot of times that predator is going to give up. Tell them to fight for their lives."

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