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Tulsa Police share criminals' tricks to lure children away

Tulsa Police say murder suspect Daniel Johnson was in his yard playing with his dog when 10-year-old Elizabeth Wagoner walked by.

He used that to strike up a conversation with her. It's the most common type of child lure.

News on 6 anchor Craig Day has useful information for parents.

Police say child predators can be very persistent and persuasive. Officers say parents need to think about the threat and take steps to lessen the danger.

When Sgt Pat Calhoun heard about the abduction and death of 10-year-old Elizabeth Wagoner it was like a kick in the gut.

"This is the kind of thing as a police officer you hope you never come across," says Calhoun.

Calhoun is the Public Education Coordinator for Tulsa Police. He wants parents to be aware of the dangers of abductions. Telling a child to be wary of strangers isn't enough.

Calhoun says, "Bad guys will come up with any kind of scenarios just to lure that child in."

The most used scenario involves claims of a missing puppy or kitten which is what Tulsa Police have used in undercover demonstrations to prove a point with parents.

Calhoun says predators will also listen for a child's name, like when a child is playing with friends at a park.

"Little children especially," Calhoun says. "They want to believe. They want to trust. And it's a fine balance that we have to teach them. between being wary of strangers and trusting people."

Officers say parents need to play "what if's" with their children. Like what if someone calls them by name? What if someone offers candy? What if a stranger says there has been an accident or emergency?"

"Again, it's through what if's and through scenarios that we need to teach our children that that's when they need to turn and run for home," says Calhoun.

Another trick used by predators is to claim there is a family emergency and that he's there to take a child to the hospital to see their mom or dad. Officers say families should use a code word for emergencies.

Sgt Whitney Allen of the Tulsa Police Department's Child Crisis Unit says many crimes committed against children can be prevented.

- The most important key to child safety is effective communication with your child.

- We maybe sending a confusing message to our children by teaching them “Stranger Danger.” Children may not understand the term STRANGER. Most children will describe a stranger as someone who is ugly or mean. They don’t perceive nice-looking or friendly people as strangers.

- Experience has shown us that most children are actually taken by someone they are familiar with. If someone talks to a child or is even around them once, that person loses their “stranger” status.

- It is more appropriate to teach children to be on the lookout for certain types of situations or actions rather than certain kinds of individuals.

- Children can be raised to be polite and friendly, but it is okay for them to be suspicious of any adult asking for assistance.

- Children help other children, but there is no need for them to be assisting adults. Adults should not be asking for assistance from children.

- Children should learn to stay away from adults in vehicles, and they should know that it is okay to say NO, even to an adult.

- Parents and guardians should explain to children that the child’s personal safety is more important than being polite.

- Children should be taught to tell things that make them uncomfortable to a trusted adult.

- Kids need to be empowered with positive messages and safety skills that will build their self-esteem and self confidence while helping to keep them safe.

- A clear, calm, and reassuring message about situations and actions to lookout for is easier for a child to understand than a particular profile or image of a stranger.

- As soon as children can articulate a sentence, they can begin the process of learning how to protect themselves against abduction and exploitation.

- If you are in a public place and you get separated from your parents or guardian, don’t wander around looking for them. Go to a uniformed police officer or a store employee with a name tag.

- You should not get into a vehicle and go anywhere with any person unless your parent or guardians have told you it is okay to do so on that day.

- If someone in a vehicle follows you, stay away from them and turn around and run in the opposite direction.

- If someone is following you on foot, run away as fast as you can and tell a trusted adult what happened.

- Grownups should not be asking children for help. They should be asking other grownups.
- No one should be asking you for directions, asking you to help look for something like a “lost puppy” or telling you your mother or father is in trouble and he or she will take you to them.

- If someone tries to take you somewhere, quickly get away from them and yell or scream.

- If someone tries to grab you, make a scene and make every effort to get away by
kicking, screaming, and resisting.

- Try to take a friend with you anywhere you go.

- If someone wants to take your picture, tell them NO and then tell a trusted adult.

- No one should touch you in parts of your body that would be covered by a bathing suit, nor should you touch anyone else in those areas. Your body is special and private.

- You have the right to say NO to someone who tries to take you somewhere, touch you, or makes you feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused in any way.

- If your child does share a problem with you, strive to remain calm, noncritical, and nonjudgemental.
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