By Pat Lafleur,
FortThomasMatters City Beat
As summer really gets started here in Ft. Thomas, outdoor activity and neighborhood fun becomes an everyday thing for most kids around town. This is a central component to the experience of growing up here: running around with other kids from the block, racing bikes down to Convenient for an Icee float, marching off into the woods at Highland or Tower Park to discover the unknown.
In a lot of ways, summers in Ft. Thomas can resemble a scene from Pleasantville, and -- indeed -- our community is one known for perennially providing a safe, nurturing environment for children.
But, especially as summer comes around again, the Fort Thomas Police Department likes to issue a reminder to parents that keeping this a safe community for Ft. Thomas children starts with parents' ability to talk to kids about how to safely interact with other adults.
Last month, FTPD collaborated in an on-going study over the last 14 years with Fox 19 anchor and Ft. Thomas resident Tricia Macke, to see just how far a police officer -- posing as a stranger -- could go with kids. The results have not be reassuring for parents.
FTPD Detective Brian Adams and Lt. Rich Whitford, working with Fox 19, simulated a number of scenarios in which Det. Adams, posing as a friend of a child's parent, is able to gain access to a home or lure a child into a vehicle in literally a matter of seconds.
"It wasn't that hard, unfortunately," Det. Adams told Tricia Macke, describing just how easily an adult can gain threatening proximity to unknowing children.
Lt. Whitford boils it down -- in part -- to what children are taught to be a threat. "They need to be taught that sometimes it's not the boogie man who poses a threat. We need to start teaching our children that you can say 'NO' to adults. That sometimes it's people dressed professional, nice-looking."
And the FTPD have found that this does not just pertain to young children, but kids as old as 12-14 yrs old were found to get into an automobile or venture into the woods with an adult they've never met. It simply takes the right kind of story to get these kids moving. As a result, Lt. Whitford explains, "It's never too early to talk to your kids about stranger danger. Talk early, and talk often."
Now, we should be clear, this is not an issue worth fretting over because of the frequency with which it happens in Ft. Thomas. The fortunate truth is that abduction cases are rather few and far between here.
But the conversation is a crucial one to have with your children from time to time (not once), as this study has shown, because losing a child this way can literally happen in the blink of an eye.
For full video coverage of Det. Adams's "stranger danger" simulations, click here.