Feb. 12 editorial: A scary thing moves from rare to real

Feb. 12, 2011

The report would send a chill through any parent: An attempted abduction of a 7-year-old girl occurred in Odell.

This is fearful stuff, made no less so by the law enforcement's statements that this is an extremely rare event in our community.

When something like this happens once, it's no longer a rarity.

The facts that have been made public are these, according to Hood River County Sheriff's Detective Matt English: a white male, between 20 and 30 years old at approximately 6 feet tall, approached the girl and tried to entice her to accompany him. When the child refused, the suspect attempted to physically take the girl from her yard. The victim reported that he grabbed her arm. The girl was able to alert her mother, who came outside to investigate.

(See page A1 for details on the suspect and vehicle description.)

One fact is frightening and reassuring at the same time: The girl's mother was home, and protected her daughter.

The girl was not alone; but this is the sort of thing that can happen in broad daylight, in front of one's own home.

However, Detective Matt English's advice is well-stated and it points to the need to talk with our children about what to do whether or not a parent or caregiver is around: "Be vigilant about knowing where your children are and educate your children about how to protect themselves if they are approached." (The schools have indicated they will review stay-safe measures with students.)

The sheriff's department investigated on Monday and then worked with the school district to inform the community. Official public information on the incident was distributed by the sheriff's office through the school district on Monday afternoon, and sent home with children Tuesday after school.

Certainly it was critical to inform parents, via flyers as well as school websites, but it reflects one precept that deserves examination: There are other stakeholders to consider as well. How do you inform community groups serving children in the area that are not necessarily affiliated with the school district?

There was logic and reason in the way the sheriff's department and the schools coordinated their efforts, but the main takeaway from the incident is this: Earlier, broader notification of the community could have taken place. We can, and should, learn from this no-longer-rare incident.

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