Southfield Police give tips to parents, kids on stranger danger

By: Mike Koury | Southfield Sun | Published October 14, 2021

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SOUTHFIELD — After almost two years of pandemic living, people are slowly finding themselves getting back out in the world.

This includes children returning back to school and spending more time outside of their home. With a return to school and normal life come reminders about the possibility of “stranger danger.”

Southfield Deputy Police Chief Jeffrey Jagielski recently spoke to the Southfield Sun on tips and what to do if a child is confronted by a stranger.

Before anything, however, Jagielski stated adults shouldn’t talk to children they don’t know, regardless of the situation.

Jagielski cited a late September incident in which a 7-year-old girl told her mother a man tried to get her into his vehicle. The girl told her mother she was riding her bike on the sidewalk when a man in a van pulled up next to her. It led to another person confronting the man and the girl running home. The deputy chief stated they located the man believed to be involved, and after an extensive interview, he said they learned that the man had not tried to pick the child up but that the child had been in the street blocking the road.

“In this particular incident … he should’ve never rolled his window down and had dialogue with that child,” Jagielski said. “It shouldn’t have happened, no matter what the dialogue is.”

For the parents, Jagielski said, their children should be told not to talk to anybody they don’t recognize; kids need to know that, even if a person knows their name.

“If they try to tell you to ‘come here,’ if they try to entice you in some way, turn and run, go to a trusted source,” he said. “If you’re at school, go back into the school, go to a teacher, go to a parent or a friend that you might see there.”

Parents also should know, the deputy chief said, not to put their names on the outside of kids’ backpacks or shirts, which is something that he finds a lot with young children between the ages of 5 and 7.

“The outside of their backpack is for everybody to see and it’s nothing for a stranger to come up and say, ‘Hey, (child), come here for a minute. Your mom told me to pick you up from school today.’ Little kids can be gullible,” he said. “They trust their parents, so they’re gonna go with the stranger. And people do things like that, unfortunately, and they try and lure these kids like that.”

As far as being outside and playing, Jagielski cautioned children not to wander too far away and to let their parents know where they’ll be. If someone is in their neighborhood that looks like they shouldn’t be, driving slowly, they should call their parents and the police.

The advance of technology has made it easier for parents to keep track of their children, as people can use smart watches or other devices to follow their kids.

It’s something that Jagielski uses with his own children, such as on camping trips when they’re with their friends but not around adults.

“Obviously, you’re not gonna let a 5- (to) 6-year-old out of your sight. A 12- (to) 13-year-old, you’ll want to know where they’re at. You can see where they’re at,” he said.

“Don’t wear that watch where it’s seen by everybody. Maybe keep it in a pocket, somewhere it’s hidden because again, it’s nothing for somebody to go up and accost somebody, take that watch off and discard it on the side of the road. … If it’s in a pocket, they might not know they’re wearing a watch and still track their whereabouts.”