Such situations hit Polk County a little closer to home recently when a 13-year-old Cedartown girl faked a kidnapping to be with a 19-year-old man, with whom she had a relationship.
The man involved, Israel Tino Pablo, 19, of 120 B Georgia Avenue, is facing charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, interference with custody, false imprisonment, child molestation and statutory rape, police said.
The girl was found safe and returned home.
However, a 7-year-old girl, Jorelys Rivera, was abducted in her Canton apartment complex the same weekend. Her body was found in a trash dumpster Dec. 5 and a suspect, Ryan Brunn, 20, who lived in the complex and was a maintenance worker, was arrested Dec. 7.
Cedartown Assistant Chief Jamie Newsome said parents can take a number of steps to help keep their children safe.
He said the main thing parents should do is call the police immediately if they can’t find their child. He said a child targeted by a predator is usually killed within three hours of abduction, so time is of the essence.
“National statistics shows it out that parents exhaust their resources before calling the police,” he said. “If we don’t even find out a child is missing for three to four hours after they’re missing, we’re incredibly behind the eight-ball.”
He said that advice goes for those parents who have more troublesome children also. Newsome said police could help parents make calls and get those children back home.
While parents may be embarrassed to ask for the help, Newsome said it’s best to not take any chances.
“That’s what they pay us for. A lot of people won’t call police because they think it’s not important enough,” he said.
Newsome said parents have the right to monitor every relationship their child has with anyone, including babysitters, neighbors, teachers, friends, and relatives.
“It is my responsibility to determine who has a relationship with my child,” he said.
He also said parents shouldn’t be afraid to make their children angry by asking questions, checking emails, social networks, and cell phones.
“In a lot of these cases we run across, with runaways, with inappropriate relationships, the investigation shows there have been inappropriate calls, inappropriate emails, inappropriate Facebooks,” Newsome said.
“Most of the time, these pan out that these things have been going on for a while.”
He stressed that children now have more access to technology than ever before, so parents have to be savvy about it also.
“Parents have to monitor all kids’ cyber connections,” Newsome said, adding they have to know how to check items their kids may try to hide.
Newsome said parents might also want to talk to their kids about news events and use those events as teachable moments.
“In an age appropriate way, they may want to share the news stories that this can happen,” he said.
He said the object shouldn’t be to make a child fearful, but to help them understand they need to take “realistic precautions.”
“We all know that teens think they’re immortal, that their bullet proof and bad things happen to other people,” he said. “I want my children to take precautions and not put themselves in jeopardy.”
He said children should be reminded and encouraged not to go anywhere without first checking with their parents.
Newsome said children and teenagers also need to be reminded that trust should not be freely given.
“Don’t assume someone is safe just because you have had interactions with them,” Newsome said, adding that some predators will interact with children on a number of occasions before abducting them.