Friday, May 24, 2013

May 25th is the 30th Annual National Missing Children’s Day

President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day in 1983. May 25th is significant because it marks the anniversary of when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school in 1979.

That case was brought to a sad conclusion last year on May 24th when Pedro Hernandez, 51, told investigators he lured the little boy into a shop with the promise of a soda. He then led him to the basement where he choked him and put his body in a bag with some trash.

Sadly, cases like Etan’s continue to occur around the country. The main purpose of National Missing Children's Day is to encourage everyone to think about children who remain missing and to spread a message of hope.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are more than 1,000 families who have children whove been missing for more than five years. 

Keeping kids safe is our number one priority here at the Overland Park Police Department and we encourage parents to take every step possible to safeguard their children.

There are many ways to keep kids safe. Here are a few tips from McGruff the Crime Dog®:

At home:

Stay in touch. Call children throughout the day to ask how they are and what they are doing. Ask children to check in before they leave the house and to call again when they return.

Keep kids connected. Post important numbers by the telephone, including parents’ work and cell phone numbers, the doctor's office number, and the number of a neighbor or nearby relative who can help children quickly if they need it.

Practice what to do in an emergency. Teach children how to dial 911 or "0" and when to do it. Ask questions like, "If someone is trying to get in the house, what should you do?" "If you get hurt, what should you do?" and, "If you want to play at a friend's house, what should you do?"

Set firm rules. Make clear what children are allowed to do and what they aren't allowed to do. Can they use the Internet when home alone? Can they invite a friend over? Can they invite several friends over?

In the neighborhood:

Know where your children are. Have your children tell you or ask permission before leaving the house and give them a time to check in or be home. When possible, have them leave a phone number of where they will be.

Help children learn important phone numbers. Have your children practice reciting their home phone number and address, and your work and cell phone numbers. If they have trouble memorizing them, write them down on a card and have them carry it at all times. Tell your children where you will be and the best way to reach you.

Set limits on where your children can go in your neighborhood. Do you want them crossing busy streets? Playing in alleys or abandoned buildings? Are there certain homes in your neighborhood that you don't want your children to go?

Get to know your children's friends. Meet the parents of your children’s friends before letting your children go to their friend’s home, and keep a list of their parentshome phone numbers. If you can't meet their parents, call and talk to them. Ask what your children might do at their house and whether they will be supervised.

Choose a safe house in your neighborhood. Pick a neighbor's house where your children can go if they need help. Point out other places they can go for help like stores, libraries, and police stations.

Teach children to settle arguments with words, not fists. Role-play talking out problems, walking away from fist fights, and what to do when confronted with bullies. Remind them that taunting and teasing can hurt friends and make enemies.

Work together with your neighbors. Watch out for suspicious and unusual behavior in your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors and their children so you can look out for one another.