I-10 Predetor Reminds Parents of the Importance of Talking to Kids About Strangers

The nation watched in suspense as convicted sex offender Gary Dale Cox went on a child kidnapping spree along Interstate 10. He was able to lure young girls into his car despite the fact they didn't know who he was.

Cox is no longer a threat but the danger posed by child abductors is still alive.

Seven-year-old Allison Sowka knows it's a bad idea to talk to people she doesn't know because her mother told her so. However, recent child abductions has her mother wondering if they've talked enough.

"When I saw these older girls willingly getting in the car for whatever the person was saying to them, it was just scary to me," Connie Sowka said. "They were getting in the car."

Child safety was a top priority at the Gulfport Police Department's first-ever public safety fair at Rice Pavilion on Saturday. Along with the rides and games, public safety officials say the fair was a chance to warn children what can happen when dealing with strangers.

"If you don't know who this person is then be careful. Be careful," Chief Wayne Payne said. "Tell an adult what the person asks and never never get into a vehicle with someone you don't know."

Before a child can learn not to talk to strangers first he or she has to know what a stranger is. Some parents say it's never too early to start talking to children, and the children seem to agree.

Michelle Galvez, a parent said "You can't watch them 24 hours so the earlier the better to teach them and have them learn to not talk to strangers."

Thirteen year old Rachel Tucker said "You never know what can happen. You have to be aware of your surroundings."

Law enforcement officials say they are committed to making sure children know that a stranger is anyone they don't know well. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children ,  last year about 750,000 children were reported missing. That's about 2,000 children a day.

by Danielle Thomas