Since the abduction of Elizabeth Smart in the summer of 2002, terms like Amber Alert and “latchkey kid” have become a fixture of today’s society. A 2002 study by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention reported that 115 children were the victim of non-family abductions or “stereotypical kidnappings.” With such high numbers, it is easy to see why the public can become numb to hearing about such occurrences. However, the videotaped kidnapping of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia from a Sarasota car wash puts into perspective the ease with which kidnappers can operate. It is important that the public stay aware of these incidents and promote communication between parents and their children in order to prevent further tragedies.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one out of 10 children in grades four through twelve is or has been a “latchkey kid.” A child is considered to be latchkey if they return home to an empty house and are left without adult supervision for approximately two to three hours.
Kidsfightingchance.com, a Web site that provides helpful safety tips for both children and parents who anticipate such a situation, offers easy to follow advise. One example is having an answering machine on at all times or a special telephone ring implemented so the child knows it is his or her parent(s) calling. Children should never leave the doors and windows unlocked or answer the door for anyone unless their parent(s) have specified that they do so.
According to the National Safety Institute, the geographical area in which children wander freely and unsupervised has decreased by 75 percent. Instead of one mile, parents are allowing their children to wander only two city blocks. However, making the space smaller doesn’t make it safer for a child to be alone. For example, The Florida Today reports that Carlie was alone less than a mile from her home.
Web sites like kidsfightingchance.com and preeteenagerstoday.com are two of several sites that not only offer tips on safety measures, but also advocate communication between family members. Web sites such as those listed above advise parents to train their children to struggle and make a scene if approached by a stranger.
Lists of tips certainly do not guarantee safety. However, through repetition and discussion, children can learn the importance of protecting themselves and avoiding precarious situations. While the Tampa Bay area continues to mourn the tragic loss of such a young girl, it is important that parents all across the nation continue to stay alert to these occurrences so they may teach their kids to prevent more in the future.