Last month’s abduction and murder of Jessica Ridgeway prompted parents across metro Denver to talk to their children about protecting themselves and avoiding potentially dangerous situations.
But even if your kids seem to understand the risks of talking to strangers, they might SAY one thing and DO another.
Molly Walsh of Denver always talks to her children about stranger danger, especially her 8-year-old son, Jake.
But the Ridgeway tragedy makes her wonder if they are really listening, “As much as we can talk about it, it’s just still an unknown for all of us,” she said.
That’s why Molly and two other moms in her Park Hill neighborhood agreed to partner with us to let us put their kids to the test.
We rigged a car with hidden cameras and hired an actor to approach their children, pretending he needs directions to the Denver Zoo, just three blocks away.
First he pulled up on 8-year-old Addie, on her bike. She knows exactly where the zoo is, but when approached by our “stranger,” she lied and said “no.”
Next we test 10-year-old Sofia. As soon our actor approaches her she dumps her scooter and runs to the nearest house. Sofia told us, “What went through my mind is what happened to that little girl and it scared me so much.”
But when our actor approaches Molly son’s Jake, he not only talks to the stranger, he comes right up to the car. It’s only when our actor asks Jake, “Do you want to get in the car and show me how to get there,” that Jake step backs from the vehicle and says, “No thank you.”
Jake's mother Molly is disturbed by her son’s reaction. “This man could have gotten out and grabbed him and nobody could have done anything about it.”
Aurora police Sgt. Cassidee Carlson told us, “There’s no reason an adult should be asking a kid for directions.”
Carlson also said Jake’s kindness could have gotten him hurt or worse. “He wants to be so helpful, but his helpfulness and his kindness could have gotten him seriously hurt.”
Even when he asks him to get in the car he still says, “No thank you.”
Carlson said parents need to teach their kids to be rude and cause a commotion. “A complete stranger, you can yell at them, you can tell them no!”
Molly now realizes her son has a lot to learn. “He did exactly what I told him not to do.” She plans to use our test as a teaching tool down the road.
Aurora Police have a few tips on keeping kids safe:
- Talk openly with your children
- Teach them everyone who is not known to your family is a stranger.
- If someone tries to lure them make a scene, fight back.
- And if something happens that makes them uncomfortable tell a trusted adult.