Teaching stranger danger

Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 22, 2015

Last week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and AMBER Alert announced a partnership with Facebook to push AMBER Alerts into the newsfeeds of Facebook’s nearly 185 million U.S. users. Facebook will automatically localize the alert to users within the missing child’s geographic area.

AMBER, short for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response is named after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas in 1996. The program seeks to publicize cases of missing, endangered children by law enforcement and broadcasters working together to interrupt regular programming to broadcast alerts about missing children on radio and television and on highway signs.

In June of 2001, Michigan became the fourth state to implement a statewide AMBER Alert program. The Michigan State Police (MSP) is the state contact for Michigan’s AMBER Alert program. The Michigan AMBER Alert Partnership includes the MSP, Michigan Association of Broadcasters, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriff’s Association and Michigan Department of Transportation.

Since 2003, AMBER Alerts have helped police find 728 missing children nationwide. For more information on AMBER Alerts, visit www.amberalert.gov.

As I am typing this article, I will be heading towards Northside Elementary in Niles. My topic today will be “stranger danger”. I am using one of the Big 5 Safety Rules from our T.E.A.M curriculum, Never Go With A Stranger. In this lesson, we explain to the students that a stranger is someone you don’t know; that simple. It is explained that a good stranger will never come to a “little friend” for help. They will go the student’s adult to ask for help. The “bad stranger” will use tricks to get them away from their safety.

Then, it’s time to scare the stranger and get away. I use the RadKids Stance from our Radkids class that Officer Kevin Kosten and I teach. The children stand up and put up their hands, their “bear paws” and put on the “bear face”. They then yell, with an outdoor voice to “STAY BACK”. They then run to safety. We repeat this many times in the classroom.

I explain to the children that it’s very important to not get into this situation in the first place. They need to understand “sight, sound, and distance” theory when they are out and about. This means can their adult or safety person see them? Are they too far away or blocked by obstacles?  Second is the sound. Can the adult ask their child to come here without yelling or can they use a normal conversational voice to summon the child. If they have to go above that, the child is too far away. The third is the distance. The classroom is set up to simulate an aisle at a store with shelves and possibly a coat rack. The child goes away from their safety person as far away as they think they are safe. I then stand in the middle, near the simulated coat rack. As the child approaches their teacher, I step in front of them, blocking them from their teacher’s view. That distance was too far as I could have been a stranger and stepped in front of them. They now understand to stay closer to their adult or safety person.

It was a great day talking to over 300 students about this safety tip. The demonstrations were very useful and my ears were ringing from these outdoor voices.

Stress safety to your child. For the adult, on your phone, if capable, download the FBI’s Child ID app. The app has “FBI” in yellow, “Child” in red, and a white handprint with the word “ID in it. Follow the instructions and store your child’s information on this. The FBI does not collect or store any information. It is solely stored on your phone until you need to send it to authorities. This app also gives tips on keeping children safe as well as specific guidance on what to do in those first few critical hours after a child goes missing.


Stay safe and alert. Any questions and/or comments, email me at TrooperRob53@yahoo.Com or call 269-683-4411