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Parents can take steps to protect their children from possible abductions

Sunday, February 15, 2004

SIKESTON - Awareness, alertness and education are among the keys to preventing abductions, according to local experts.

"I think the biggest thing is to be aware," said Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "A big part of it comes down to monitoring your kids, knowing where they are."

With the abduction and murder of Carlie Brucia in Sarasota, Fla., making national headlines, parents are being urged to educate themselves and their children.

Holding on to a "it can't happen here" attitude can give a false sense of security and leave parents and their children unprepared in the event of an attempted abduction, Juden said.

"These pedophiles are predators," Juden said. "They prey on the innocent children and defenseless children and that's why they're such a danger to society."

Timothy Wall, master instructor at the Pil Sung Black Belt Academy of Sikeston, also described child abductors as predators and advised parents and children to be alert when out in public.

In addition to being better prepared to spot potential trouble, an alert posture has the benefit of making a child a less-attractive target.

"Don't look like a victim," Wall said. "If you look like a victim, you might become one."

Many Internet Websites offer safety guidelines such as the Fear Not Foundation's "10 Golden Rules for Safety" at www.Childrens-Safety.com.

While Wall doesn't believe it is possible to completely "kidnap-proof" a child as some programs promise, there are things that can be learned and practiced.

Children can learn safety rules such as only taking family-approved routes when walking and how to react to encounters with people they don't know.

"When there's a stranger, they need to keep their distance," Wall said.

An adult male can cover a distance of 15 feet in about two seconds or less, according to Wall. "We call that our 'caution zone,'" he said. "The thing that should come to mind is 'stranger-danger.' Every time the potential predator takes a step, move away - keep that 15-foot distance at all times."

If the stranger tries to close the distance abruptly, students are taught to flee. "After about two steps, I teach them to run," Wall said.

While some may fear violence from the abductors, experts advise it is best to resist from the start.

Juden advises children, if grabbed like Carlie Brucia, to "scream, kick, holler - draw some kind of attention to your situation" as statistics show that if someone goes along with the kidnapper, chances are slim they will been seen alive again by their loved ones.

Many martial art, self-defense and child safety programs teach children escapes from wrist grabs and other grasps.

Like martial art techniques, evasion and escape techniques require practice, however. "It's about repetition," Wall said. "You have to go over it repetitively before you can expect it to work."

During some of Wall's martial art classes for children, drills are practiced with an adult instructor lunging toward the student who practices bolting at the first sign of sudden, aggressive motion.

Wall also cautions students against tricks used to draw them into range. "Child predators will do anything to capture that child's attention or imagination," he said. "They've used everything from kittens and puppies to candy to lure children. They use many tricks and deceptions."

Wall said children must also be taught that even people they have become acquainted with may still really be a stranger, that even "nice" people they have met once or twice before count as strangers.

As Carlie didn't appear to struggle on the video recording of her abduction, many experts have speculated that the perpetrator may have built up some level of trust with her leading up to her eventual abduction.

The good news is law enforcement personnel are more aware and prepared to deal with child abductions then they were 20 or even 10 years ago. "We have a lot better tools than we use to have like the Amber Alert," Juden said.