Saint Paul police to host community meeting to discuss child safety

The Saint Paul Police Department will host a community meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, May 12, in the Saint Paul College Cafeteria (235 Marshall Ave., Saint Paul) to discuss child safety. 

Officers from the department's Western District will share the latest information about recent assaults on children, provide safety tips for parents and children, and take questions from attendees. 

In addition to the meeting, the department is sharing the following information:

ALL KIDS ARE SPECIAL AND DESERVE TO BE SAFE

When we talk about “stranger danger” we don’t want to confuse kids and possibly put them at greater risk. Instead: Tell children to tell a trusted adult any time someone tries to make them break safety rules or any time a person gives them the “uh-oh feeling." It’s about the behavior of the person, not the relationship or how the child knows them.

According to the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center:

  • Children have image in their head of a “stranger.” One of our law enforcement contacts asks kids to draw a stranger and then asks them to draw a nice person. The “stranger” pictures have horns, fangs, and look very scary. If a person seems nice, children don’t connect the rule to the person.
  • Mixed Messages – Is the school bus driver a stranger? How about the social worker? We want children and teens to know how to ask for help. They should be taught HOW to talk to strangers.
  • Children and Teens are MUCH more likely to be victimized by someone they know. (2,200 children reported missing each day, 115 stereotypical kidnappings each year).
  • 90% + of abductors/abusers are known to the child

Instead of talking about the relationship, we talk about the behavior:

  • If someone asks us to go somewhere with them we ALWAYS check first with the person taking care of us.
  • If someone is trying to make us go somewhere with them or do something with them without being able to check first, we are allowed to make noise, say NO and find a grown up to help us.
  • ANY person who tries to get you to go in their car without checking first…
  • ANY person who asks you to keep a touch a secret…
  • ANY person who asks for you to help them with a grown-up’s problem
  • ANY person who wants to give you a present…

By talking about behavior of a person it helps protect children from the greater risk of someone they actually know, while also covering the rare cases of stereotypical non-family abductions.

Bad Touch/Good Touch

Child psychologists tell us that children are less likely to disclose if they have been taught bad touch as they believe that they are now bad as well. It can be confusing when someone’s touches feel good, but aren’t supposed to happen.

Instead: We could talk about TOUCHES. Tell a trusted adult if anyone asks you to touch their private parts. The only time someone would ever need to touch a child’s private parts is to keep a child clean or healthy (doctors, bathing, etc). When it is a clean and healthy touch, we are allowed to ask questions.

Children should never be asked to keep a touch as a secret.

If a touch makes you confused, worried, or scared, please talk to a trusted adult. KNOWING THAT IN MORE AND MORE OF OUR CASES, JUVENILES ARE THE OFFENDERS; we should be clear when using phrases like “tell if an adult tries to hurt you. It should be “Tell if anyone tries to hurt you.”

Talk with your child about “Is this touch keeping me clean and healthy?” “Am I allowed to talk about it?” It is your job to convince your child that they are always allowed to talk to you about this subject!

Talk about STRANGERS

Not ALL strangers mean DANGER

If your child got separated from you in public, would they know how to seek out a stranger for help or would they wait until they were approached? Kids should be taught how to talk to strangers so that they know how to get help when they need it. Teach your child to seek out an employee with a name tag or a mother with other children as someone who can help them if they are alone or afraid. Teach your child that talking to a police officers or security person is a “safe stranger”.

Kids are very literal, so when you talk to them about safety, never say "don't talk to strangers" or they might resist the help of police or firefighters should the need arise. Instead tell them that there are adults they can trust (like police, firefighters, rescue personnel, security guards, information booth attendants, and store clerks with name tags). The best way to teach safety is to talk about situations rather than individual people since a dangerous person probably won't look very threatening.

Tell your kids about the different tactics predators use to trick children; like offering candy asking for help to find a lost pet

Saying things like, "there's been an accident and your Mommy wants you to come with me right away."

Offers of really cool toys

All of these could mean they are dangerous and your child should NEVER accept them no matter how much they want to!

Emphasize that you would never, under any circumstances, send someone they didn't know to retrieve them and that trustworthy adults don't ask children for assistance (like searching for a lost pet or fixing a car) -- they ask other grown-ups. Explain that if someone they don't know.

Play "what if."

Ask your child, "What if we're at the mall and get separated?" Good answers include your child telling a store clerk, information booth attendant, or security guard, staying where they are and waiting for Mom or Dad to return, or asking a mom or dad with a stroller for help.

Last but not least, instruct your children to always check with you before interacting with someone they don't know or someone they do know but aren’t used to being around and not to worry about being rude -- a person who has their best interest at heart will understand and encourage this caution.