Increased reports of suspicious approaches to children recently have prompted police to advise parents to “be alert, not alarmed”.
While police are not able to currently pinpoint the cause of the increase, historically they notice a rise in reports of this type after increased publicity.
National Prevention Manager Superintendent Eric Tibbott says the increase in reporting does not necessarily translate to an increase in offending, and upon thorough investigation by police it is often found there is no sinister intent to the reports.
“Child abductions in New Zealand are extremely rare and most of those are custodial related.”
In many of the recent cases, police are investigating suspicious approaches rather than attempted abductions, adds Eric.
Parents and teachers are having conversations with children about what to do if they feel unsafe, and that is a positive thing.
Police works with schools and the community and encourage families to have discussions around behaviours and actions that are inappropriate or make a child feel uncomfortable, rather than concentrating on the types of people that could harm them.
The ‘Keeping Ourselves Safe' programme for schools takes this behaviour-based rather than person-based approach.
“We need kids to identify behaviours that make them feel uncomfortable, unsafe or scared and take action, remove themselves from the situation and tell someone.”
An emphasis on potential abuse/abductions by people unknown to them, sometimes referred to as ‘stranger danger', is an outdated, discredited and potentially dangerous concept that police has steered away from since the late 1980s.
In the 12 months to January 31, 2017, police recorded crime data shows there were 92 abductions of people aged between 0-19, and on six occasions, the offender was unknown to the victim.
In regard to the recent reports, police believe the children who reported these suspicious approaches did the right thing. While officers carry out inquiries, schools, students and parents will see extra assurance patrols in the area.
“While police take these reports very seriously, it is important to stress that we are still yet to establish the exact nature of these recent incidents.
“Through sensitive interviewing, police will work to establish if there is any evidence of criminal intent.”
POLICE ADVICE FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS:
• Teach your child how to get safely to and from school and other places they go – whether they walk, bike or go by bus.
• Make clear rules about getting home.
• Go to school with your child so that you can show them the safest route.
• Teach them to deal with hazards like narrow footpaths or busy roads.
• If they walk, make sure they always use pedestrian crossings.
• Who does your child walk home with? Meet the parents of children in your area and keep in touch.
• Teach the children to walk home together in twos or small groups, not alone.
• Make other arrangements if someone is away.
• Anyone who has an immediate concern for their safety should not hesitate to call 111.
• We actively encourage students to report anything that makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
• This can be to a trusted adult, a teacher or the Police.