WLOX hopes you saw the shocking footage of two strangers who succeeded quite easily in coaxing more than a dozen children out of a park. We used hidden cameras to see if second graders at Bayou View Elementary would follow someone they didn't know.
In the first lure, a man pretended to look for his lost dog Buddy. It took him less than 1:30 to lure 14 kids across a bridge.
Right after that lure, we sat the students down to listen to the Junior Auxiliary of Gulfport explain the dangers of strangers. The youngsters learned that is someone they didn't know approaches them, they should take three giant steps back, make a commotion and run and tell a trusted adult.
A week later, we put the children to the test again at the same park. This time, a fake office worker showed up at the park to target one child, "Judy." She told Judy that her dad was going to check her out. Judy immediately took off and even led our stranger to the bridge. Only two classmates noticed that anything was wrong and warned their teacher.
Several parents were stunned when they saw their children being lured away so easily. They learned that they need to re-enforce the lessons at home. The purpose is not to frighten children, but to make them more aware of their surroundings and adults who approach them.
Here are some tips parents need to know to help prevent child abductions and exploitation:
- Know where your children are at all times.
- Be sensitive to changes in your child's behavior.
- Be alert to an adult who is paying extra attention to your children.
- Teach them to trust their gut instincts.
- Listen carefully to your children's fears.
- Tell them no one should approach or touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
Here are basic rules of safety for children:
- If you are in a public place, don't wander away from your parents.
- Strangers don't have to look or sound scary. They can look very "normal".
- Don't get into a car or go anywhere with anyone, unless you get permission from your parents.
- Grownups should not be asking children for help.
- If someone tries to take you away, quickly step back, yell and scream and run.
- No one should touch you in parts of the body that would be covered by a bathing suit.
- You have a right to say "no" to anyone who tries to take you, touch you, or makes you feel scared or uncomfortable.
- If someone chases you, hide under a car because an adult can't fit under a vehicle.