Polly’s Guide To A Safe Halloween

happyhalloween

With Halloween once again upon us, parents concerns about their chldren’s safety is paramount. In order to alleviate lingering fears we have created a pro-active list of child safety tips designed to ensure a safe and sane Trick-or-Treat experience for all.

 

  • Check Megan’s Law for sex offenders in your neighborhood and ensure that your children avoid their houses
  • Children under twelve-years-old should Trick-or-Treat with a group and take along a parent or a teen-aged brother or sister
  • Tuck a GPS enabled cell phone equipped withe the Track N Treat smart phone app into your child’s interior pocket so that you can track them in real time
  • Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods that you know, that you trust and that are well lit. Avoid dark alleys, dark stairwells, or remote locations
  • Discuss your Halloween route with your parents and the time you will return
  • Wear make-up instead of a mask that can inhibit vision
  • Wear clothing that is light in color and not too long. Add something that glows in the dark or is reflective
  • Carry a glow stick or flashlight to to see and be seen by drivers
  • Walk on the sidewalk, cross the street at crosswalks, and stay away from cars
  • Stay outside the homes that you visit
  • Be sure all treats are wrapped and sealed. Eat them only after a parent checks them first
  • Trust your feelings! Avoid strange situations
  • If you do not feel safe Trick-or-Treating, don’t Trick-or-Treat
  • Have a fun and SAFE Halloween!

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back

In January 2015, I began informally consulting on a projected “True Crime” television series called They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back. It premieres this Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 10:00 PM on the Lifetime Movie Network.

 

The one element that totally differentiates this program from all other True Crime television is that it is guaranteed to have a happy ending. Watch as victim after victim recounts their ordeal and the circumstances that enable them to escape almost certain death.

 

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back tells the stories of abducted children who escaped from the hands of their kidnappers; and the families who never gave up hope on getting them home safely. Each episode features a single story, told by the formerly kidnapped child and the family members and investigators who tirelessly searched for them, according to the network. Viewers will hear about the parents’ frantic and relentless search for their child, and how they worked with law enforcement to bring them home.

 

The premiere episode of They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back recounts the story of kidnap survivor and KlaasKids volunteer Midsi Sanchez. Please check back to read my blog on Midsi, where we discuss the crime, life after victimization, and her experinece on this very cool new television series.
 

Jared Fogle & AJ Gonzales: Not the Usual Suspects

Where Jared Hid His Victims

Where Jared Hid His Victims

Former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle is headed to prison for having sex with at least one child, receiving and distributing child pornography. Like 15-year-old A.J. Gonzales, the 15-year-old boy who allegedly killed little Maddy Middleton in Santa Cruz, #BadJared is not one of the usual suspects. How then, do we protect our kids when their abusers or killers do not conform to stereotypes?

 

Since at least 2007 #BadJared has been using his wealth, position and subterfuge to victimize and exploit America’s children. He was aware of and possessed, photos and video created and supplied by Russ Taylor, the disgraced Executive Director of Fogle’s children’s charity. Instead of notifying the police he possessed and distributed the kiddy porn. He has also pled guilty to paying at least two underage girls for sex. In all, there are 14-known victims named in the indictment against #BadJared.

 

In Santa Cruz, CA 8-year-old Maddy Middleton was missing for more than a day when her lifeless body was discovered in a dumpster at her apartment complex and her teenaged neighbor was arrested for her kidnapping, raping and murdering her. By outward appearance the neighbor boy was a non-threatening presence at the apartment complex who was well liked by the younger children.

Alleged Teen Rapist/Killer AJ Gonzales

Alleged Teen Rapist/Killer AJ Gonzales

Neither perp is a dirty old man in a trench coat. Neither was a registered sex offender, and both were seeming well liked within their community. In other words neither were waving red flags. How then do we protect our kids from predators that lurk below the radar?

 

First, I think it is important that children understand that they don’t have to automatically submit to the requests of every adult put in front of them. They shouldn’t have to kiss Aunt Sally, stay around for extra Soccer practice with Coach Larry, or prepare the sacrament with Father John. They should be taught to be respectful but skeptical of the adults that they come into contact with. They should trust their feelings if something doesn’t feel right, and feel comfortable declining invitations. Remember, it is a well-known fact that individuals who have sexual designs on children will find ways in their professions and volunteer activities to gain unsupervised access to your kids.

 

Parents should have ongoing safety conversations with their children. Look upon it a learning opportunity that will help them grow up into healthy, productive citizens. They should always check with their parents first. They should always be with at least one other trusted person. They should trust their feelings and be willing to put distance between themselves and the cause of their unease. I also think that it is a good idea to give your children cell phones. This gives them 24/7 direct access to you as well as enable you to track their movements through the cell phone’s GPS capability. Well…at least track the device.

 

Both of these goons are going to do hard time for their crimes. But will it be enough? Maddy has no life therefore no prospects, yet her killer will linger (at state expense) for decades. Who would be willing to calculate the damage done to #BadJared’s 14-victims? Fortunately, The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2003 established a federal, civil right of action for trafficking victims to sue their traffickers. Let’s hope that his victims litigate him into bankruptcy. Then, when he emerges from prison in a few years, his bank account will match his morality and his victims just may have a chance to put their lives back together.

Polly’s Guide To A Safe Halloween

8 yr old Polly - HalloweenHalloween can be as frightening as it is fun. Scary stories, haunted houses, and jack-o-lanterns rule the day. Children dress up in costumes that stretch the imagination. We laugh, we cringe, and we marvel at their creativity. They knock on the doors of strangers and receive all manner of treats. In the United States Halloween celebrates goons, goblins, ghosts, and all things departed.

 

No wonder moms and dads all over America feel like they are rolling dice with fate as the tykes disappear into the darkness. Hopefully, Polly’s Guide to a Safe Halloween will alleviate some of that anxiety.

 

  • Trick-or-Treat with a group andd take along a parent or a teen-aged brother or sister
  • Check the Megan’s Law website for sex offenders in your neighborhood and avoid homes where sex offenders live
  • Make sure that someone in your group has a cell phone with a charged battery
  • Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods you know, you trust and that are well lit
  • Stay out of dark alleys, dark stairwells, or remote locations
  • Discuss your Halloween route with your parents and the time you will return
  • Wear clothing that is light in color and not too long. Add something that glows in the dark or is reflective
  • wear make-up instead of a mask that can inhibit vision
  • Take a flashlight and walk on the sidewalk
  • Cross streets at the crosswalk and stay away from cars
  • Stay outside the homes you visit
  • Be sure all treats are wrapped and sealed. Eat them only after a parent checks them first
  • Trust your feelings! Stay away from strange or uncomfortable situations
  • If you do not feel safe Trick-or-Treating, do not Trick-or-Treat
  • Have an FUN and SAFE Halloween!

Father Hits Teacher with Baseball Bat and Other Examples of Instant Karma

Marc & Polly 001A Maryland father will not be facing charges after hitting one of his daughter’s teachers with a baseball bat after the teacher refused to leave the family’s home following a texting scandal.

 

Fathers have a sworn duty to protect their children. We repeatedly tell our sons and daughters that we will, “Always be there to protect you,” knowing the whole time that we have vowed to do the impossible. We then pray that they will be safe when we cannot be there to protect them.

 

We have to let go. Beginning when they are very young we allow them to go to pre-school and then school, secure in our belief that responsible adults will prepare them to be productive and well-rounded citizens. In this case the educational community failed to protect a 15-year-old girl from the predatory behavior of one of her teachers.

 

When the family discovered what the police agreed was an “inappropriate emotional relationship” between the 42-year old teacher and his 15-year-old student they went to the police at 3:00 a.m. The authorities took no action against the teacher because they couldn’t determine that laws had been broken. At approximately 9:45 a.m. the teacher showed up at the girl’s house. When he refused to leave the girl’s father beat him with a baseball bat.

 

Within six hours the girl’s father had learned about a much older man who was making sexual advances toward his teen-aged daughter and then confronted the man when he showed up unannounced at the family home. For the second time in a brief period of time the teacher had failed to respect social boundaries.

 

The teacher acted very aggressively when he first showed up at the girl’s house, and then refused to leave. The girl’s father simply sent a very strong message to the teacher that the police could or would not send, “You will not mess with my little girl.

 

That he sent that message via a swinging baseball bat is appropriate given that at least two trusted institutions had failed to protect his child from a much older man whose intentions, as illustrated by his actions, were predatory.

 

Similar Cases

Child Safety in the 21st Century

Child Safety

Introduction

The Internet has changed the rules. Back in the day, children had to beware of predators lurking in alleys, dark stairwells, in and around parks and schoolyards. Those concerns still exist, but the Internet has emboldened a new generation of cyber-perverts who rely upon anonymity and subterfuge to engage their evil intentions.

 

While the vast majority of people were marveling at the potential and benefits of the Internet, a small subset of individuals were pursuing the dark side of cyber space: networking with each other and empowering amoral behavior; re-invigorating the near dormant child pornography industry; and lurking behind false profiles as they attempted to lure, groom, and victimize our children. The very predators who could not penetrate our dead bolts, alarm systems, guard dogs or personal armories had found a back alley into our living rooms under the camouflage of binary code and new world technology.

 

The problem has become so alarming that an instant message stating that, “I am a twelve-year-old-boy home alone and I want to have sex with you,” is enough to launch and deliver a convoy of white and blue collar pedophiles willing to risk everything to satisfy uncontrollable  urges. While we basked in a false sense of security the family living room became the predator’s new playground.

 

Strangers Are Not the Problem

Stranger danger is a misleading concept from a time when we did not understand child victimization. In fact, the vast majority of children are harmed by somebody they know: a teacher, clergy member, family friend or even a family member.

Do

  1. Always check with your parents before you go anywhere. – This is especially important if you don’t have a cell phone. Parents need to have access to their kids in case of emergencies, missed curfews, or other unforetold circumstances.
  2. Always be with at least one other person when you are outside. – There is strength in numbers. This is also called the buddy system. You look out for your buddy, and your buddy looks out for you.
  3. Trust your feelings. – This is called instinct. Sometimes, we all get a feeling that something is not as it should be.
  4. If something feels wrong, put distance between yourself and whatever is making you feel uneasy. – Acting on your instinct is ingrained in animals as well as humans. Instinct is a primal reaction to circumstance. It is not based upon experience.
  5. Strangers can help kids in danger. – The vast majority of so called strangers would gladly help a child in distress. Kids can always approach a woman or group of women. Even other kids will protect you if you are in need of protection. The same thing goes with men, but unfortunately, they tend to be the problem.

Don’t

  1. Accept invitations from or cultivate relationships with adults without checking with you parents first. – Stick with age appropriate relationships. Adults who forge special friendships with kids are suspect.  We know that people with unhealthy designs on children will go to extremes to gain unsupervised access to children in their volunteerism or career choices.
  2. Open the door to anyone when you are home alone. – A young child isolated and alone is no match for a determined predator or anyone else who wishes harm.
  3. Tell anyone that you are home alone. – Keep all doors and windows locked. Only answer phone calls from family members and check-in with your parents on a regular basis.
  4. Play in isolated areas. – Avoid alleys, dark stairwells, and other places that isolate or may trap you.

 

The Internet Is Here to Stay

The Internet affords tremendous benefits and enables monumental abuses. If we are going to ensure that the World Wide Web does not become a virtual Wild Wild West we have to aggressively engage those who would abuse it.  But, by linking arms and working toward a common goal, we can ensure that our kid’s online experience is empowering, positive and safe.

Do

  1. Have fun with the Internet – experiment, email, chat, surf, research, play games, and create social networking profiles so that you can communicate with your friends. Just be careful about doing so.
  2. Trust your parents – Talk to them about your Internet experience, follow their rules, and allow them to monitor your online activities.
  3. Inform your parents if you see violent or pornographic images – These may be illegal images, and are certainly not intended for the eyes of children.
  4. Stay on public, monitored, child friendly rooms if you are using instant messaging or entering chat rooms. – Predators have the advantage because they are anonymous on the Internet. Remember, not everybody is who they say they are.

Don’t

  1. Share personal information. – Your identity, your address, school, phone number, passwords, etc. should never be shared with people that you don’t know in real life. Predators and rogue marketers can use this information against you.
  2. Make your social networking profiles public. – By sharing social networking profiles only with your friends you are ensuring the integrity of your friends and the validity of their profiles.
  3. Don’t reply to or start a conversation with people you don’t know. – Don’t accept gifts from them or agree to meet with them.
  4. It is a terrible idea to open email attachments from people that you do not know. – They may contain viruses or malware.
  5. Plagiarize – It is cheating to copy other people’s ideas and pass them off as your own.

 

Summary

There is no silver bullet that will end crimes against children. Legislation alone will never fully protect children on the street, in their bedrooms or online. Law enforcement does not have the resources to simultaneously and constantly patrol every community, and online decoy stings will never totally eradicate the black heart of a predator. By itself street surveillance and Internet technology cannot contain evil intention. Education and awareness, in the classroom or at home, will only go so far toward protecting kids, because kids are vulnerable by nature of who they are.

 

It is our responsibility as adults to take the steps necessary to protect our kids. We can accomplish that goal by organizing our neighborhoods to protect our children and our property. Support legislators that understand the importance of punishing violent criminals and providing resources for at risk children. Volunteer with and donate to organizations that are dedicated to ensuring that children are provided with opportunities to thrive and prosper. Utilize technology solutions and Internet tools designed to assist you in protecting children from inherent danger. Be a good citizen and report suspicious individuals and circumstances to the police. Show your children areas to avoid like alleys and dark stairwells, and show them the best routes to and from school. Finally, remember that we cannot put the burden of child safety on the shoulders of the children.