NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – You think your child is safe, but your life can change in an instant. Do you know if your child would do the right thing when confronted by a stranger?
News 2 teamed up with Metro police to create a stranger danger scenario involving children at a playground who meet a puppy and a man they don’t know.
What happens next is a stark reminder of how quickly and easily children can be taken.
Detective Michael Clark is an officer with Metro Nashville Police Department.
But to Maggie, a 6-year-old and daughter of a News 2 producer, he is a total stranger who is extremely convincing.
Detective Clark approaches Maggie at a park with a dog.
“Do you want to hold him?” he says. “Hey, do you want to feed him a treat? I have some in my car. Come on.”
With the help of the dog, he gains Maggie’s curiosity, and more frightening, her trust.
Maggie begins walking away with the stranger, just steps away from his car’s back seat.
Her mother, News 2 producer Karen Brown, told News 2 she watched with her stomach in knots.
“I thought I was doing everything right,” she said. “Apparently, I’m not.”
But just before Maggie gets to that car, it is clear Brown has actually done quite well.
“MAGGIE! Maggie, no! Maggie! Come here right now!” screams her big brother Jack, right on time to save his little sister.
Jack later told his mom he heard the man say something about a car. “I don’t know that guy and I don’t know his dog either,” he added.
“I can’t even think about that. It just makes me so worried,” Brown told News 2.
Detective Clark said that’s what predators do, gain the trust of your children.
“What most predators do, they have to get into a friendship with your child. Once they develop that, at that point, pretty much anything they say [will lure your child away],” Det. Clark told News 2.
In a second scenario, the Metro detective, with dog in hand, approached 3-year-old Rosalie.
Her father, Nathan Light, looked on but pretended to be distracted as Det. Clark introduced himself to her.
News 2’s clock starts when he approaches Rosalie. “That’s very, very hard to watch,” Light said.
It only took 8 seconds for her to start walking toward the car. And in less than a minute, she’s next to it with the detective.
Moments later, she’s gone.
“I didn’t really feel the full effect of presumably what it would be like to see your child being kidnapped until I saw her that far away,” Light told News 2.
It was tough to watch, for sure, and it can happen so quick. And it can,” the father added.
But it doesn’t have to.
Metro police told News 2 that parents cannot give their children a blanket statement like “never talk to strangers” because that includes educators, police officers and others.
Police said what parents must do is warn their child to never get into a car with someone they don’t know.
Families should create a safe word only their family knows, then to tell their children if the stranger doesn’t know that safe word, don’t go with them.