Picture this: You’re at your local park on a quiet Sunday afternoon. It’s sunny outside, children are playing and there’s a team soccer game going on. All seems great, until suddenly the once blissful afternoon takes a turn, and a man in a field near you is attempting to abduct a little girl.
What do you do? Would you step in? Ask for help? Fight back?
Well, if you’re anything like the little girl's big brother in this heroic story, then that’s exactly the action plan you would take.
In 2020, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) had 79 cases of nonfamily abductions, the rarest type of case which makes up less than 1% of the missing children cases reported to NCMEC. On Oct. 3, 2021, an older brother in King County, Washington, made sure his little sister would not fall into that category.
The siblings, who were spending their afternoon at North SeaTac Park, were in an area between the playfield and the basketball court when police say a 54-year-old male allegedly approached them and tried to kidnap the 6-year-old little girl. As the man was grabbing the girl’s arm and attempting to pull her to the parking lot, a local mother watching her own children on the playground jumped in and grabbed the girl’s other arm and started screaming for help.
That’s when the girl’s 11-year-old brother jumped into action and went into hero mode to protect his little sister. Assisting the woman who was already trying to help, he ultimately disrupted the stranger’s plan.
During the commotion, other people in the park stepped up as well, and the boy was joined by a group of nearby soccer players, which included the little girl’s uncle, who were able to pin down the kidnapper until deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office could arrive.
“This event highlights a great initiative by the older brother and local soccer team,” said Tim Meyer, sergeant and media relations officer at the King County Sherriff’s Office. “We encourage all parents to talk to their children, in an age-appropriate way, to be mindful of their surroundings. Everyone, regardless of age, should trust their instincts and summon help whenever needed.”
NCMEC recognizes the heroic actions of this 11-year-old boy who intervened and rescued his sister. The suspect was arrested and charged with attempted second-degree kidnapping and fourth-degree assault.
Much like their story, others across the country have dealt with similar situations. In fact, in 2020 NCMEC documented more than 600 attempted child abductions. A 10-year analysis completed by NCMEC revealed that children were at the greatest risk for an attempted abduction when they were going to and from school.
Like the siblings in Washington, it’s important to talk to your child about the steps they should take if they’re ever in a threatening situation. Follow these NCMEC quick tips when speaking to your children about personal safety and attempted abductions:
Encourage Your Kids to be Proactive:
In NCMEC’s analysis, 83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors took action. Teach your kids to walk or run away, yell, kick, or pull away from the abductor. Teach your kids to take action instead of being passive or polite.
Set up a Safety Plan for Your Kids:
Point out places where they can go for help when in areas like school or the park. Remind your children to travel in a group. Teach them the tricks that would-be abductors use and encourage them to tell a trusted adult whenever anything or anyone makes them uncomfortable.
Teach them the Four Rules of Personal Safety:
Teach your children the four rules of personal safety and outline scenarios where they could be used. Remember to remind your children to:
- Check First
- Take a Friend
- Tell People No
- And Tell a Trusted Adult
Remember, when it comes to keeping your child safe, YOU are your child’s best resource!
For more information on attempted abductions and family resources including the KidSmartz safety program visit: https://www.missingkids.org/education