By Estelle Sobel Erasmus
My daughter is 3 1/2; young enough so I basically know where she is every minute of every day. When she’s not with me, she’s with my husband, or her grandparents, a trusted baby sitter or pre-school. But it won’t always be like that-as she gets older she’ll want more independence; and I’ll give it to her-within limits. One limit I will impose is that she can’t go bike riding alone or with friends without me there. Why? We live in a scary world, which is getting more frightening by the minute.
According to the Department of Justice, of the 800,000 children reported missing annually, approximately 69,000 are abducted and non-family abductions account for 18 percent (12,000) of the reported cases. The most common way children are abducted in non-family abductions? Taken off the street or dragged into a car.
And although they say stranger abduction is statistically very rare (accounting for only 18 percent of reported cases) the fact can’t be denied that if it happens to your family the statistic is 100%. I repeat. 100%.
There have been a rash of attempted lurings of children in my state (more than a dozen in the past two weeks), and recently we heard the heartbreaking news that the body of a twelve-year-old, discovered missing after riding her bike in a park on a Saturday afternoon was found in a recycling bin. A mother has turned in her two teenage sons to the authorities.
New Jersey State Senator Richard Codey is calling for tougher penalties for those convicted in attempted abductions.
“With spike in child luring reports, I’m introducing legislation to strengthen the law and increase penalties,” Codey wrote on Twitter.
Tougher legislation is absolutely imperative. The criminals are getting bolder. There have been several attempted abductions throughout the country, at parks, and even one in plain sight at a hockey game.
I think about how sick some people are, and then I remember an incident from my teenage years growing up in Long Island. I used to work at the public library and would ride my bike there and back. My route was an easy one and took me about fifteen minutes: down the street, past the hospital, across a big highway till I arrived at the building. One day I left work and was halfway home; it was around six-thirty in the evening, when I noticed a car driving along, keeping pace with me.
I glanced over, and saw a few men in the car. They called out to me to come over to them… the calls became more and more aggressive. Frightened, I pedaled faster but the car sped up; then I turned my bike around, and…the car made a U-turn. I clutched tightly to the handlebars of my bike and rode into the backyard of one of the suburban homes. The backyards of the homes were adjoining, so I cut across all the backyards on the street, until I got home.
I immediately told my mom what had happened, but in those days, nobody called the police, or even thought of alerting anyone that potential abductors were on the loose. We simply decided that I wasn’t going to ride my bike to my job anymore.
I also got my mom to drive me to high school until I graduated.
Today I read the statistics with my heart in my throat, as I’m sure every mom I know does.
Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child is reported missing or abducted. That translates to over 2,000 children per day (under 18 years of age).
I do daily drills with my daughter. Never go with someone who is not mommy or daddy or her teachers. Not even to see their puppy; help them look for their puppy; watch video games; get candy. If someone picks her up yell, “this is not my mommy or daddy,” and then fight until she can run away.
And, no, I will never allow her to go bike riding by herself.
I hate feeling like this; but until we live in Utopia, it’s the only way I know to keep her safe.
What steps do you take to keep your children safe? Don’t you agree that we need tougher penalties for attempted child luring?