Stranger Danger in Lac La Biche: Choosing Our Response

Ecole plamondon letter

Photo Credit: The Lac La Biche Post

This letter was sent home to parents on October 07, 2013, informing them of a report of adults inviting a child into a vehicle. Since then there has been 1 more report of 2 adults trying to convince children to enter their vehicle. None of the children claimed to recognize the occupants of the vehicle.

Over the past two days RCMP have received two complaints of an unknown people speaking to and approaching children. Police have investigated both of these incidents and have concluded that there is no risk to the public. 

However, Lac La Biche RCMP would like to remind members of the public that have children or work with children about some general safety tips. 

Police encourage parents to speak with their kids regarding strangers and unknown people who may approach them. Children should never speak to or go with anyone they do not know. As well as never accept anything such as candy or gifts. Children should be encouraged to always walk with a friend/sibling or adult to and from school and if playing at a playground should always have somebody else with them. Children should never reveal their address to a person who they do not know. 

Parents and educators in our community should be vigilant and discuss this topic with children. If a child reports a suspicious occurrence or you observe any type of suspicious behavior contact Police immediately. 

The Lac La Biche RCMP can be contacted at (780) 623-4380 twenty four hours a day for police assistance. For emergencies involving a threat to life or property call 911. 

For more information on safety around strangers several resources are available from various internet sites such as Child Safe Canada. 

Cst. C. (Chris) CLARK

No doubt child abduction is every parents' nightmare. However, these incidents weren't even listed as "abductions".

Yet as these events developed, suddenly the 2 incidents became attempted child abductions… and 2 become 3… and then more vehicles were spotted trying to snatch up children… and Michael Stanley, convicted sex offender on the run east and south of our town, was apparently seen in LLB… and people started yanking their kids of playgrounds… and the snowball turned into an avalanche.

I don't want to dimish the fear that the children felt or their parents/teachers/caregivers. To have a stranger try and get you into a strange car to go to a strange place is terrifying! And a solid community response is required!

However…

… when our response is fear, some dangerous things begin to fester within us:

  • we put locks on our locks
  • we load guns… & have loaded guns in our homes where small children are at play 
  • we refuse to let children walk to school
  • we hunker down in our homes & only allow close friends or family in after they've texted us that they're about to ring the doorbell
  • we start using phrases like "don't walk so far ahead! Someone's going to snatch you!" (a phrase I heard today at the Post Office from a young mom to her 2-year old)
  • we lose our ability to live life and give into fear
  • we believe gossip and rumours
  • we start sharing that gossip and those rumours
  • we teach our children to be fearful rather than responsive
  • we teach our children that our gossip is more reliable than helpful investigation

Yes, these events were alarming but the ridiculous and fearful reactions from some people who had nothing to do with them were nearly as alarming. How are we to trust our neighbors when our own children are in trouble after we've instilled so much suspicion for everyone around us?

It's not an easy balance to juggle.

Parents, caregivers, teachers, friends… let's remember that as important as it is to teach our kids positive "Stranger Danger" lessons, the vast teeming majority of abductions, assaults and child endangerment happenings occur at the hands of friends and/or family members. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics reported (2008):

For every 100,000 young persons, 334 were victims of physical or sexual violence by a friend or an acquaintance, 187 
experienced violence by a family member, and 101 were victimized by a stranger.

Strangers do play a part in violent crimes involving children. However our friends and family members are the most likely candidates to commit these types of crimes… as sad as it is to say. How open are we to discuss this reality? Not so much now… no one wants dirty laundry like this aired out. So we keep quiet.

I'm not asking that we point our fingers are our friends or call for public hangings of convicted family members. I am only trying to point out how disproportionate our reaction was to this incident when we know quite well the reality is much different.

What should our responses be? I deliberately use the plural because I know there's going to be more than one. Constable Clarke's pointers were quite sound (walk with a trusted adult or sibling)… meaning, walk safely but STILL WALK! We must choose to still live our lives instead of giving into hysteria, especially when that hysteria is based on gossip. Our children only learn fear then… not peace or safety.

It is imperative that in situations like this… or in situations of trafficking… or of exploitation… that we choose our response instead of instinctively reacting to our guts. We have guts for a reason, but they aren't always accurate. 

For our children to have the courage and capacity to reach out to that person bullying them… to that person they see on the street… to that friend in crisis… to themselves when they're in tough spots… they need to see and understand rational, loving responses to scary moments. Yes it's healthy to see us adults cry or tremble at the thought of losing them. But it is also healthy for them to see us rise above our fear, choose to create our community instead of letting the dark dominate it, and be the kind of people we want them to be.

 

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