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It could happen anywhere

Osceola police chief provides insight into dangers of child abductions

It happened in Evansdale in July 2012. It happened in Dayton in May.

Child abductions can happen in any community.

“We like to think that we’re in an area — all of us — in an area of Iowa where big-city things don’t happen,” said Osceola Police Chief Marty Duffus. “The fact of the matter is that it does not matter what size the community (is) in the state of Iowa. That community has the very same issues, albeit, maybe not on the same scale, but they have the exact same issues as your metropolitan areas.”

Duffus said he can’t recall a child abduction happening in Osceola since he’s been with the department, which is almost 10 years.

However, Duffus said, every once in a while the department receives phone calls of a person enticing or frightening a child from a vehicle.

“We’re fortunate those don’t happen frequently,” he said. “We’ve had a couple of those since I’ve been here, but, we’ve never had one abducted, at least since I’ve been here.”

The police department does receive calls for a possible missing child. One of the first things officers do is to thoroughly examine the home of the child and property near it because, often, the child has found a hiding spot they haven’t told the parents about.

What should parents do?

What should parents tell their children when it comes to the dangers of child abductions?

There were two things Duffus advised.

The first is to teach children not all people in the world are bad. The second is to tell children to not get in vehicles with people they don’t know.

“So, that’s a very difficult lesson to teach your children when you’re trying to be cautious, and to be somewhat suspicious of people they don’t know,” Duffus said. “Children just should not get in a car with someone they do not know.”

A child may be lured with the promise of puppies or candy, and parents should tell children that adults don’t drive around offering children those things.

Children need to be aware of their surroundings and neighborhoods. Parents need to be alert and in charge of their children.

However, Duffus said, child abductions frequently happen with an adult the child does know or is familiar with.

In the case of a missing child or an abduction, the first 24 hours are the most critical for getting the child returned, Duffus said.

What should children do?

If a child is approached in a possible abduction attempt, what should they do?

Duffus had two things to tell children — yell and run.

“Make noise. People hear noise,” he said. “People, when they hear something, they’ll turn and look. They may not know exactly what they’re looking at or for, but they know they’re looking.”

Children aren’t frequently chased in an attempted abduction, Duffus added.

Small towns

In the case of 15-year-old Kathlynn Shepherd of Dayton being abducted and murdered in May, there were media reports of people being shocked that it could happen in a small town.

According to Duffus, the reasoning behind this is there is more frequency of crimes happening in a big city because there’s a larger population.

Crimes happen less frequently in a small town because there are fewer people.

“But, that’s exactly what makes it attractive in that there’s not very many people around,” Duffus said.

Another thing to think about is, for people in big cities, it’s common not to know everybody passing by on a street.

In a small town, everybody knows everybody. People notice outsiders in a rural area.

Osceola’s traffic

In Osceola, there are many different people driving through town because of the intersection of highways 34 and 69, as well as Interstate 35 on the west side of town.

Duffus said Osceola has more transient people in the area compared to other communities of its size, and it’s because of the major highways and interstate.

He reminded everyone to be careful and for parents to know where their children are and what they’re doing.

“Everyone agrees on the safety of children, and cops are no different,” Duffus said.


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