SIKESTON -- Following an alleged kidnapping attempt last week, many residents are asking: Does Sikeston have a problem with abductions?
"I would say no," said Sgt. Jim McMillen of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "I wouldn't necessarily say we have a problem with it, but always be careful. We did have an alleged abduction attempt on May 14 which is currently under investigation."
Rumors of other recent child abduction attempts by the same person or by someone driving a similar van are, to DPS's knowledge, just rumors.
"I'm not aware of any other attempt," McMillen said. "This is the only incident I've been told about."
Last week's abduction attempt reportedly happened at the intersection of Matthews and Pine.
"In that particular incident, a 12-year-old girl alleged a man in a van approached her and said her mother wanted him to pick her up. She didn't know the man," McMillen said.
The girl and her mother had previously arranged a code word to be used in unscheduled pick ups by people other than her mother.
"She asked the guy for the code word and he didn't have it," McMillen said. "I guess she knew something was up then."
At this point, the man reportedly grabbed her, according to McMillen, but the girl was able to pull away and rode away on her bike. "She got home and told her mother what happened," he said.
McMillen said the girl and her mother did several things which not only prevented the abduction attempt from being successful but are also helping in the DPS investigation.
First of all, "she was cautious enough to ask the guy for the code word," McMillen said. "And she was able to get pretty good descriptors of the guy and what he was driving."
Having a code word set up in advance and asking for it was also a key to preventing this abduction, McMillen said, as well as being "leery enough of the situation that she fled the scene."
McMillen said having a code word is something he would recommend for all parents. "I think it's a good thing to have," he said.
He noted that not all abduction attempts involve strangers as family members are often involved after divorces or child custody disputes.
McMillen also offered several pieces of advice for parents to help prevent abductions, starting with "the basic 'don't talk to strangers.'"
He also recommended children use "the buddy system" as "people in groups are a little more intimidating than single people to these types of offenders."
McMillen said to teach your children that if they are approached by a stranger, "don't get too close to them or their vehicle in case they try to grab you. Try to keep your distance from suspicious people."
And tell them that if someone does grab: "Do anything you can to get way -- kick, bite, scream, yell for help," he said.
After escaping from an abduction attempt, "try to recall the details as best you can," McMillen said. "And call the police as soon as you can."
McMillen said it is also important to remember that when it comes to child abductors, "it doesn't always necessarily have to be a man -- it could be a female."