Camelot Neighborhood Association

Personal Safety for Your Older Child

Kids Twelve or Older Most Vulnerable


The video of the recent kidnapping of a young girl at a carwash in California was horrifying to parents everywhere. Both the speed and ease of the kidnapping was a nightmare to everyone concerned with keeping children safe. How do you go about keeping your child safe? There are no easy answers but information about who gets kidnapped and where gives all of us at least a starting point in figuring out what we need to do to keep our children safe.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a wealth of information about keeping your child safe on their website (, but one of the most interesting articles was an analysis of the data on children abducted in 1999 sponsored by the Center. Some of the facts found in the report (Personal Safety for Children) are eye opening and may cause you to rethink how you go about protecting your children.

Types of Abductions
Abductions are divided into family abductions and non-family abductions. In 1999, about 204,000 family abductions took place. Ninety-eight percent of these children were located or returned home, and none of these children were killed. There were approximately 58,000 non-family abductions. Ninety-nine percent of these children were returned home. Only 115 of these were perpetrated by strangers where the child was kept overnight, held for ransom, or killed. Amost 60% of the 115 were returned safely.

Who Gets Abducted
The non-family abductions are the kidnappings most feared by most of us. Sixty-five percent of the children are female, and almost sixty percent are from 15-17 years old. Twenty-two percent are 12-14 years old, twelve percent are 6-11 years old, and seven percent are five years old and under. If you, like most of us, think that your older children are less likely to be kidnapped, you will probably be shocked to learn that 81% of all kidnapped children are twelve years of age or older.

In non-family abductions, over 50% of the children kidnapped were taken from the street, from a vehicle, or from a park or wooded area. In family kidnappings, 75% of the children were taken from their own or another’s home or yard.

Even in non-family kidnappings, only 45% of the abductions were by a stranger. The other 55% involved friends and acquaintances and, to a far less degree, caretakers or babysitters, neighbors, or authority persons.

What Can You Do?


Now that you know your older children are so vulnerable, what can you do to teach them how to protect themselves? You have to sit down and talk to them about the whole subject of safety. You need to teach them:

Safety in numbers—Your children are safer in a group, especially in malls, video arcades, movie theaters, and parks and wooded areas. If your teenager is going to a mall alone, teach her to pay attention to what is going on around her, especially in the parking lot.

Trust Their Feelings—Teach your child that if he or she feels uncomfortable or uneasy in a situation or with a person, there is a reason for it, even if the child doesn’t know what the reason is. Teach your child to honor that feeling and to say no or get out of the situation as quickly and safely as they can. Gavin DeBecker’s book, The Gift of Fear, stresses how important instinct is in safety and survival; he states that the first sign of danger is not fear, but an uneasy feeling or a feeling that things aren’t quite right.

Learn to Say No—Teach your child to say no in a situation that makes him or her feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Teach them to say no when they are uncomfortable even when it is someone they know. Remember that in almost half of non-family abductions, the perpetrator is someone the child knows.

Talk to an Adult—Your child needs to know that you will listen and pay attention to what he has to say to you. Often his uneasy feelings are vague, and he is reluctant to say anything because he does not know why he feels uneasy. In order to have good communication with your child, you have to have opportunities to talk and, most importantly, to listen. You need to know your children’s daily activities and habits, and you need to listen to what they like and what they don’t like. Let your children know that they can talk to you about any situation, and that you will hear them.

Set Boundaries—You need to set very definite boundaries about places they may go, people they may see, and things they may do. Make an unbreakable rule that they have to check with you before they go anywhere and check with you if there is a change of plans. Enforce it until it’s a habit with them. There is no substitute for your attention and supervision.

Registered Sex Offenders


If you are among the many families who happen to live near a registered sex offender, Detective Joe Ambrogio of the Sex Offender Unit of the Garland Police Department has some advice for you. Communicate with your child and let him or her know the situation, where the offender lives, and tell him or her to let you know if anything happens that concerns them. How you communicate with your child will depend on the age of the child. There are guidelines on the websites listed below.

You can read this entire report and others on NCMEC’s website at Your children can learn about dangers on the Internet at The FBI’s website is

Posted by txclogger on 05/27/2006
Last updated on 07/29/2009
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