A 6-year-old girl is safe at home after being rescued from a kidnapping, thanks to the help of vigilant neighbors.
Last week, residents in a Louisville, Kentucky, neighborhood saw the moment the young girl was taken by a man while riding her bike.
“Parks his car, middle of the road, gets out, picks up a little girl off her bike on the sidewalk, throws her bike, throws the passenger seat and he just takes off,” said Prentiss Weatherford, a neighbor who saw the incident happen. “As I’m watching, it felt like my stomach … just fell. And from then I knew that it wasn’t right. The situation just wasn’t right and I had to do something.”
So Weatherford got in his car to follow the kidnapper, and stopped when he saw a police cruiser to provide the officer with a partial license plate number.
Thanks to Weatherford’s efforts and detailed description about the vehicle, officers were able to locate the 6-year-old girl and the kidnapper within 10 minutes. The moment police then arrested 40-year-old Robby Wildt was captured on a body camera.
“You just feel that fear that the child probably has in them. And you just want to get to the as quick as you can and remove them from the situation to try to limit the trauma to them as much as you can,” said Sergeant Joe Keeling, who helped locate the vehicle that day. “Luckily, we were able to find her pretty quick.”
“As a police officer and as a parent, we were glad we were there to get this guy off the street, there to get that girl safe,” said officer Jason Burba, who also helped bring the young girl to safety. “Because if we miss this opportunity to do this one it could be our child next on the bike ride in the streets.”
Now, officials are using this frightening incident as a way to remind parents to stay vigilant in similar situations and to teach kids about safety.
“Parents really should be talking to their children about what happens if they’re in a scenario or a situation like that,” Callahan Walsh, a child advocate with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told “Good Morning America.” “They need to be talking to their kids, how to identify risky situations, learn how to avoid them, and to make safe and smart decisions both in the real world, but online as well too.”
Here are some pieces of advice Walsh gave to help parents initiate conversations with their kids about stranger danger:
Tell children to check with their parents first before going anywhere
“Check with your parent or guardian before going anywhere with another adult or accepting anything from another adult,” said Walsh. “Take a friend, use the buddy system. It’s always a good idea.”
Let kids know that they have the right to say ‘no’
“If someone were to grab you, make you feel sad, scared, confused, uncomfortable, touch you inappropriately, you have the right to say no,” said Walsh. “A child has the right to feel safe and feel comfortable. A lot of times children are brought up with the idea that they need to respect their elders, but if something makes them feel uncomfortable, they absolutely have the right to say no, especially if somebody tries to touch them or grab them.”
Tell a trusted adult
“If that situation were to happen, immediately go tell your parent or caregiver or a teacher or somebody like that,” said Walsh.
Let kids know who they can rely on for help
“We know that if a child is in a dangerous situation, that is oftentimes a stranger that’s going to come to that child’s aid,” said Walsh. “It’s important for children to understand the situation that they’re in and then it could be a stranger that they would have to rely on for help.”
Walsh said that trusted adults kids can turn to if they find themselves in those situations include other parents such as a mother with her children, a store clerk with a name badge, a security guard or a police officer.
“Parents need to talk to their children about making safe and smart decisions,” added Walsh. “Empower them to do the right thing.”
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