Photo of Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley, Massachusetts Police Department

Week of May 24, 2020

A weekly column by Police Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley Police Department

National Missing Children’s Day is held in the month of May.  It is observed officially on May 25th.  Since it was first established in 1983, National Missing Children’s Day serves as an annual reminder that there are thousands of children who are still missing and stresses the importance of making child protection a national priority.  Particularly in this time of “Stay at Home” advisories, this is a great opportunity for parents to discuss safety awareness with their children.

There are many ways to begin discussions with your children on safety topics.  One of the programs we have used in the past was “Take 25.”  Unfortunately, it has been discontinued, however, it was a national child safety public awareness campaign created by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC).  It encouraged parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety and ways to prevent abduction.  According to NCMEC, every year in America, an estimated 800,000 children are reported missing, more than 2,000 each day.  Of that number, 200,000 are abducted by family members and 58,000 are abducted by non-family members, for which the primary motive is sexual.  Each year, 115 children are the victims of the most serious abductions; they are taken by non-family members and either murdered, ransomed, or taken with the intent to keep.  An analysis of attempted abduction cases by NCMEC found that in 84% of the cases, the child escaped would-be abductors through their own actions. Teaching children about safety works and saves lives.

The “Take 25” program provided some sample conversation starter questions for parents.  Here are a few to consider should you wish to engage your children in this exercise.  For kids ages 5-8:  Could you tell me our address? How about our home, work, or cell phone numbers?  Has anyone ever called or knocked on the door while I was gone? What did you do? Let’s make a list of 3 people whom you can call in case of an emergency.  For children, ages 9-12:  If something happened at school that made you feel bad or scared, would you tell me?  Do you think that it is safe to share your passwords with your friends? How about with your best friend?  For teens (13-18):  What kind of information do you feel is safe to share about yourself online? Are you comfortable with the information that you have posted online, knowing that it might be seen by friends, officials at your school, college and university admissions departments, and employers?  Have you and your friends talked about what types of pictures are okay to post online?  What about the comments you leave on each other’s’ pages?  These are just a few examples which may be useful in getting started.  Hopefully a productive dialogue can result.  If you need more Information, check out the NCMEC web site at : http://www.missingkids.org. 

Children are exposed to a great deal of challenges, both in person and on-line.  Any opportunity parents can utilize to discuss safety measures with their children is time well spent.  Missing Children’s Day is a chance for us to remember those who are still missing and take precautions to prevent future incidents. 

Unfortunately, the Memorial Day Ceremonies and Parade were cancelled this year.  Please take some time to reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces.  This Monday holiday must be kept in its proper perspective to remember those who have served and continue to serve this great country. 

Thanks again for your questions and comments.  Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St. Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at swojnar@dudleypolice.com.  Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.  

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