THE PSNI’s Schools Liaison Officer for Newtownabbey, Constable Brian Herron, regularly visits local primary schools to give pupils a talk on ‘Stranger Danger’.
Following the reports of suspicious approaches to children in Fernagh and Rathcoole last week, he has offered some timely advice to children and their parents.
“Suspicious approaches to children are incredibly rare, however it is good sense to teach our children what to do should they find themselves in such a situation,” he commented.
“The first thing I always say to they kids is that they shouldn’t panic or be scared all the time. Not every car on the road and not every adult out there is looking to take them away. What we want to do is make children aware but not unreasonably fearful.
“I tell the children that if a car stops and an adult winds down the window to speak, the number one thing to do is to keep a safe distance from the car. In many cases when a driver stops to speak to a child it is to ask for directions or some other innocent reason however that is still no reason to approach the vehicle. They can hear and help, if they can, from a safe distance away.
“If the person starts to get out of the car, I advise that kids walk away in the opposite direction and go to a place of safety like a nearby shop or home if it’s close by. If they feel scared then I tell them that it is ok to run to that safe place. Next is to contact their parents or another family member or friend and tell them what’s happened.”
He added: “Another part of my talk to the children focuses on what to do if they are approached by someone they know or recognise. I use the example of someone turning up to take a child home from school, perhaps saying that a parent has asked them to. I ask the children should they take the person’s word and get in the car? The answer is no.
“I advise that the child should set up a secret password with their parents that only they know. This means that if, as a parent, you are asking a friend to collect your child from school, youth club or wherever, you can let that person know what the password is and your child is then able to verify that you did indeed send that person to collect them.”
For more information and advice call the Crime Prevention Officer at Newtownabbey Police Station on 0845 600 8000.