Calls to bring back ‘Stranger danger’ advice for children after 10% rise in child abduction

January 26 , 2015


Call for as much focus on risk of strangers in street as for online grooming after over 500 abductions or attempted snatches across UK in last year.

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A charity has called for a return of high-profile “stranger danger” campaigns after the number of child snatches and attempted abductions across the country rose by 11 per cent in a year.

Charity Parents and Children Together wants as much focus of the dangers of strangers as online grooming by parents and schools.

In the 1970s and 1980s TV ads like the Charlie Says campaign that warned of the dangers of going off with strangers through a cartoon boy and cat, hammered home the message.

But new research by the charity, which fears the focus has shifted to much to warnings over online grooming, found in England and Wales 2013/14 saw the first rise in numbers of abductions and attempts for ten years up from 513 in 2012/13 to 569.


More than 350 of those in 2013/14 were by strangers or people who were not the parent.

The major cities experienced the highest number of incidents with police in London recording 184 snatches, kidnappings or attempts, in the West Midlands there were 72, and Greater Manchester Police dealt with 66 incidents over the 12 months.

The research has found that about 70% of abductions or attempted snatches involve strangers or people who are not the parents of the child.

Geoff Newiss, director of research at PACT, said that while parents should not panic, and that such events remained relatively rare, it was crucial families warned children of the dangers.

He suggested too great an emphasis on the dangers of online grooming, could lead to some mums and dads failing to tackle the issue of real-life strangers with their children.

He said: “One surprise is that we still have many more stranger-attempted abductions than parental ones that people realise. “A lot of the focus now is online grooming and I think that has taken attention away from what is seen as an old fashioned problem.”

A report by the charity said: “New safety materials to help teachers and parents talk to children about stranger child abduction should be developed, tested and made widely available.”

The figures come as police in London and Stockport are investigating spates of abduction attempts and warning families and schools in their area.

A man, 24, was arrested, but later released on bail following three reports of attempted abductions of children in Lambeth, where officers have visited schools.

On January 15, a ten-year-old girl was approached by a man asking her to go with him. Five days later an 11-year-old girl was approached by two men in a white car. A man approached a 16-year-old girl the next day on the same road, Kennington Lane.

Chief Inspector Nick Collins said: “Officers from Lambeth are currently investigating the incidents and are still trying to determine whether the same man or men were involved in all three.

“Whilst we do not wish to cause alarm I would ask the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to us. I understand that the community will be concerned and I want to reassure parents and carers that we are treating this extremely seriously.”

Meanwhile, Stockport police probed the sixth attempted abduction or suspicious approach to a child in the space of 10 days.

In the most recent incident, two sisters were approached at a bust stop in Adswood on Thursday morning by a couple who tried to persuade them to get into a car.

Further incidents were reported in Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme.

Police do not believe all the reported incidents are related, but have advised families and schools to report anything suspicious.

Police released an E-fit of a man wanted in connection with the attempted abduction of a 10-year-old schoolboy in Cheadle on January 13.

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One thought on “Calls to bring back ‘Stranger danger’ advice for children after 10% rise in child abduction

  1. “Another Chicken Story: The Stranger Danger,” is a new resource meant to serve as an introduction to the stranger danger discussion between children and their parents, educators, or child safety program officers.

    Clearly, the Stranger Danger message is an awkward subject to bring up to a child, and because of that, many people simply tell their children that they shouldn’t talk to strangers. I believe this conversation needs to be addressed with more than just a few words, especially as children become more mobile with each new school year. While you don’t want to frighten the child, parents need to say something to help equip them in case someone they don’t know should attempt to lure them away with clever words and a smile. The difficulty with this subject is compounded when some say: ‘Although there are hundreds of thousands of children reported missing in America annually, there are only about 150 of them a year being lured away and harmed by strangers.’ *In the UK, the number of children taken by strangers each year is nearly double that.

    No matter how well intended, statements like that have left many parents with the impression that they needn’t worry about their children having an encounter with a stranger who means to do them harm, since the odds are favorable that their child won’t be one of those who are abducted each year. Statistically speaking, they are correct; the odds are in their favor. But those numbers won’t mean anything to the children or to the parents of the 115 to 150 unfortunate children who will be abducted this year by dangerous strangers in America. Many of those children will never return home to their families, and those who do will never be the same again.

    “Another Chicken Story: The Stranger Danger,” will open the door to this uncomfortable conversation with children, in a non-threatening way. A story that’s told in metered rhyme with colorful characters and illustrations, this simple book will afford grownups an opportunity to discuss what children should do if a stranger approaches them and tries to trick them into helping them or into going somewhere with them. It will also provide an opportunity to explain to the child what they should do if anyone, even if it’s a friend or someone they know and care about, tries to get them to do something that they know is wrong or don’t feel comfortable about.

    Much like a fire drill, children everywhere should be equipped with this life saving information – which we all hope they will never need to use.

    Kenneth R. McClelland

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