The parents of a 12-year-old Saratoga Springs boy almost lived one of their worst nightmares earlier this week — their child being abducted.
Their boy, riding his bike around a quiet neighborhood off Union Avenue, was approached by a motorist who tried to lure him into his car with a puppy.
Rather than take the bait, the boy wisely rode off and told his mother.
With kids fresh out of school for the summer and more of them outside walking and riding their bikes, now is a good time for parents to have the age-old talk with their kids about keeping safe on the streets.
Statistically speaking, the number of child abductions by strangers in the U.S. is comparatively small.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), less than 1 percent of the 25,000 kids that go missing each year are abducted by strangers. Most, about 92 percent, are endangered runaways and victims of human trafficking. Four percent are abducted by family members, such as in child-custody cases.
But it’s something for parents to prepare their children for nonetheless.
As the Saratoga Springs incident last Sunday demonstrates, something like this can happen in even seemingly safe areas in seemingly safe communities.
There’s simply no reason for a motorist or any adult to ever approach an unaccompanied child. Not for directions. Not to offer them a ride. Not to ask them for help finding a lost puppy or to strike up a conversation.
If you’re lost, go to a gas station or convenience store and ask an adult for directions. If you’re truly concerned about the welfare of a child, call the police to intervene.
According to NCMEC, of the children who escaped their would-be abductors, 83% did something proactive — walked or ran away, yelled, kicked or pulled themselves away.
The best thing you can teach your child to do if someone approaches them and attempts to abduct them is to take action and not be passive or polite.
Parents should encourage their kids to travel in groups, tell them not to accept rides or change plans without permission, teach them the tricks abductors use such as luring them with money, pets or by asking for help, and encourage kids to tell adults whenever they encounter a situation that makes them uncomfortable. That goes for situations involving family members as well as strangers.
And even if you get some eye-rolling, make sure the message gets to your teenagers.
The Saratoga Springs incident was a shot across the bow to the potential threat. Use this opportunity to make sure your child knows how to stay safe.
For more information and tips on how to prevent abductions, visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website at www.missingkids.org.