Recently in the Saint Louis area news several reports of attempted abductions and suspicious vehicles slowing down to talk to children. The most recent episode reported by KSDK dot com happened in Columbia, Illinois involving a white male in a maroon older model van targeting an 11-year-old boy. KSDK reports, “A man inside the van struck up a conversation with the boy, who said the man began speaking very quietly.
The boy walked around to the driver's side of the van to try to hear what the man was saying, and at that time the man grabbed the boy's arm and tried to pull him into the van.” This is a prime example of a lure. Dictionary dot com, defines lure, as “to attract, entice, or tempt.” Many references to lures focus on catching fish but the parallel to real life remains. A lure is designed distract and attract a fish into believing it is something edible. By the time, the fish reaches the lure it is hooked.
Child predators are essentially fishing, for their next victim, using lures to trick children into come closer to them. Lures cause children to let down their guard, bringing them closer to the predator. When a child enters the physical space of the predator, he or she becomes vulnerable. Now the predator can grab or pull the child into their vehicle.
In 1993 Oprah produced a show on Protecting Children from Predators, with Kenneth Wooden, a well-known child safety advocate and author of the book “Child Lures Safety Guide." The shows focus was on how easy it is to simply talk a child into walking off the playground with a stranger. As Oprah interviews one mom on a Chicago playground there are hidden cameras focusing on Ken Wooden (the stranger) in the background that slowly approaches the women's young daughter. He begins by showing her a picture of a puppy while holding a leash.
As Wooden talks to the little girl, he points to an area away from the playground saying his puppy was playing over there when he got lost. He then asks her to help him look for him and when she agrees he begins walking in that direction, never touching the child. Then Oprah prompts the mother to look behind her just as the little girl trots off with a total stranger. Her daughter walks completely outside the park gates never looking back at her mother.
I remember watching the show when it originally aired. One little boy would not leave when Ken Wooden tells about his puppy being lost but immediately decides to help him when he mentions his kitten wandered away. Later, when asked what made him decide to go with the stranger the little boy tells everyone that puppies can take care of themselves but kittens cannot, so in his mind kittens need help.
Therefore, the truth is we do not know what a stranger may say that will lure a child to go with them. So how do you protect your child? One of the best methods to protect children is to teach them that an adult should never ask a child for help. Tell children that if approached by an adult stranger when they are alone to yell NO as soon as the adult tries to talk to them. Then to immediately turn and run in the opposite direction away from the adult. By stopping strangers from talking to children, and teaching them to turn and run away from the stranger the child becomes proactive in being safe.
If you live in Columbia Illinois or the surrounding community, please click on the KSDK link to see a sketch of the man who attempted to kidnap an 11-year-old boy in the middle of a quiet town. Please call 618-281-5151 if you can help identify the man or have any information about this case. For more ways to keep children safe, visit the Child Lures Prevention website founded by Ken Wooden in 1983.
Update: According to KSDK dot com, “Police said detectives re-interviewed the older sister and she admitted to not being with her brother at the time of the incident. They then re-interviewed the 11-year-old boy and determined it never happened.” Columbia police now believe this was a hoax, and there was no actual attempted abduction in Columbia Illinois. However, the information provided in the article remains valid and children should be educated regularly regarding lures people may use to try to trick them.