On Thursday, Sept. 10 just past noon, parents of students enrolled in Johnson County Schools got an urgent text message warning them that there had been an attempted child abduction.
The text message represented every parent’s worst nightmare and punctured the bubble of security that typically surrounds residents of a small community.
That text message was followed by at least five more, reassuring parents that all children were being kept indoors for recesses as well as informing them that elementary school children would not be permitted to ride their bikes or walk home from school that afternoon.
The Buffalo Police Department launched an investigation immediately. The department also promptly issued a Code Red Alert informing citizens that police were looking for a suspect and providing a complete suspect and vehicle description. The department also issued a press release to media outlets that could be shared to create awareness.
Police Chief Jason Carder credited the various law enforcement agencies, schools and emergency personnel for their quick response to alert the community.
Though the department is continuing to investigate the call, Carder said there does not appear to be any further safety threat to the community.
Nevertheless, we were impressed by the promptness and thoroughness of the communications from both the school district and police department. The communications were only possible because leaders have developed action plans for just such emergency situations. Those tasked with carrying out the action plans did so professionally.
The incident is also a great prompt for parents to go over safety precautions again with children. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers 25 tips for keeping kids safer.
In addition to long-taught things like teaching children to never get into a car with a stranger or open the door to a stranger, starting with preschool-aged children, the center encourages parents to teach children their full name and spelling of their name, home phone number and parents’ full names. The center recommends that parents talk with children about the trusted adults in their life who help keep them safe and how to locate a trusted adult, such as uniformed law enforcement or store clerks with nametags, in a public setting. The center recommends that parents help their children identify adults in their neighborhood who can help them in an emergency situation.
On Thursday, the law enforcement and school communities performed their roles admirably to help ensure all our kids’ safety. As parents, this is another opportunity for us to do our parts to help ensure the safety of all kids in our community.