Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keeping Your Family Safe

Keeping a child safe and out of harms way is a common concern among parents. Budget cuts in state prisons and local jails are causing a growing number of criminals to be released early and back into our communities. As a law enforcement officer and someone that interacts with criminals on a daily basis, I take every precaution to ensure mine and my family's safety. Parents should do the same and educate their children on safety. Since most parents work full time and children are often left alone or with caregivers, they should teach their children what to do in cases of emergencies, when approached by strangers and while walking to and from school.

While many children are taught to be friendly and greet others, they should be taught when it's appropriate and when it is discouraged. When they are alone and walking to school, they should always walk with an adult and/or with a group of friends. They should not stop to talk to anyone nor should the stop if approached by others in a vehicle. Children as young as kindergarten should also have some sort of communication device. While a standard cell phone would not be a good idea for a child, there are cell phones that have pre-added answer and call buttons, limiting the calls that can be made from a phone. The Disney D100 is an option that allows for 20 contact numbers to be added. Calls and messages can only be made to and from those numbers. Some of these phones are also equipped with GPS. This gives parents the ability to regularly monitor their children's whereabouts.

Another tool that parents have is the internet. One of the biggest concerns parents face is the growing number of sex offenders living in and around their cities and neighborhoods. Cases such as the Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard kidnappings, along with the most recent Norma Lopez murder have recently brought to the more attention to protecting our children against sex offenders. An excellent parent recourse is the Megan's Law website. It's a government run website that parents can use to look up sex offenders living in and around their neighborhoods, places of employment, parks and schools. In addition to the Megan's Law website, parents can also check sex offenders in their area through the Family Watchdog website. This website offers a free to help locate registered sex offenders in your area. All you need to do is enter an address and a map will immediately show up identifying where registered sex offenders live. Just click on the squares that appear and see photos (where available), addresses, convictions and other information about the offender. You can search areas near your home, day care, relatives' homes, schools, parks and any other area your children are in or around.

Family Watchdog also offers a notification service that' s simple to use. You specify addresses that you want to watch and the distance around those addresses and Family Watchdog will do the rest. The site can also monitor specific offenders when searched by name. It is a good idea for parents to utilize this website to pre-screen any coaches, teachers, caregivers, friends' parents or any other adult their children may come in contact with. The site updates their data daily from multiple state sex offender registries. If you register with the site, the site will alert you as soon as a convicted sex offender registers an address in your area. It's simple and it's freeIn addition, Family Watchdog also alerts you when an offender moves in or out of your area by text or email. Other services they provide are updating you about crimes in your area and about any recall or advisory issued by the government about food or other products. Lastly, they also offer an extensive library of safety tips related to product, family and child safety!

Tools such as the children's cell phones, the internet and your local police are all available to parents to ensure their children's safety. Parents should take every precaution to make sure that their children don't fall victims to a crime. Awareness is the best defense to protect your family. Knowing the people that your child comes in contact with and being aware of those that live, work and play around your children is something that every parent should do.

Below are some statistics that are shocking, but that parents need to be aware of. Don't let your family become a victim. Be proactive instead of reactive. Be aware of your surroundings and the people that are around you and your family.

According to the US Department of Justice:
1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
--90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew.
--The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
--The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.

Snyder, H.N., US Department of Justice Statistics, 2000. Sexual Assault of Yong Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics.

--Center for Sex Offender Management, (2001). Recidivism of Sex Offenders, Full Report and Statistics.

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