JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With many Northeast Florida students back in class and Duval County students returning to school on Monday, now is a good time for parents to talk with their children about personal safety, especially walking to and home from school. That’s when most attempted kidnappings happen, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Vanessa Baffour-Singletary is a new mother whose daughter isn’t quite ready for school yet, but soon it will be her first time dropping her daughter off at daycare.
“I know she’s safe in my hands, but what are the protocols between 8 to 5 when I get her?” Baffour-Singletary said.
It’s a concern many parents can relate to, as the start of the new school year can come with mixed emotions for adults and children.
For Baffour-Singletary, even thinking about the future when her daughter is old enough to walk to and home from school is worrisome
“When I was younger, I saw so many more crossing guards, I saw so many more parents at bus stops,” she said. “Especially after the pandemic, everybody’s at home, so you don’t really see people and see people looking out for each other.”
Florida is high on the list for missing children cases. In 2021, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported 2,166 missing child cases statewide.
News4JAX spoke with former Jacksonville sheriff’s Officer James Brown about preventive measures parents can take to protect their children.
“Don’t get complacent and think that when we see and hear abductions on the news and in the media and think it can’t happen to my child,” Brown said. “Well, it can.”
Brown says a key preventive measure is for parents to educate their children about personal safety.
“Parents need to take a little time and talk to their kids about what to do when they’re approached by a stranger or people whom they’re unfamiliar with,” Brown said. “That is a big task that needs to be done.”
These conversations can give parents peace of mind and also children a plan of action just in case.
Another step Brown recommends is allowing your child to walk in groups with other children. He says that lowers the chances of anyone approaching or targeting a child.
Also, he encourages parents to teach children to always be aware of their surroundings.