January 26 , 2015
Call for as much focus on risk of strangers in street as for online grooming after over 500 abductions or attempted snatches across UK in last year.
A charity has called for a return of high-profile “stranger danger” campaigns after the number of child snatches and attempted abductions across the country rose by 11 per cent in a year.
Charity Parents and Children Together wants as much focus of the dangers of strangers as online grooming by parents and schools.
In the 1970s and 1980s TV ads like the Charlie Says campaign that warned of the dangers of going off with strangers through a cartoon boy and cat, hammered home the message.
But new research by the charity, which fears the focus has shifted to much to warnings over online grooming, found in England and Wales 2013/14 saw the first rise in numbers of abductions and attempts for ten years up from 513 in 2012/13 to 569.
More than 350 of those in 2013/14 were by strangers or people who were not the parent.
The major cities experienced the highest number of incidents with police in London recording 184 snatches, kidnappings or attempts, in the West Midlands there were 72, and Greater Manchester Police dealt with 66 incidents over the 12 months.
The research has found that about 70% of abductions or attempted snatches involve strangers or people who are not the parents of the child.
Geoff Newiss, director of research at PACT, said that while parents should not panic, and that such events remained relatively rare, it was crucial families warned children of the dangers.
He suggested too great an emphasis on the dangers of online grooming, could lead to some mums and dads failing to tackle the issue of real-life strangers with their children.
He said: “One surprise is that we still have many more stranger-attempted abductions than parental ones that people realise. “A lot of the focus now is online grooming and I think that has taken attention away from what is seen as an old fashioned problem.”
A report by the charity said: “New safety materials to help teachers and parents talk to children about stranger child abduction should be developed, tested and made widely available.”
The figures come as police in London and Stockport are investigating spates of abduction attempts and warning families and schools in their area.
A man, 24, was arrested, but later released on bail following three reports of attempted abductions of children in Lambeth, where officers have visited schools.
On January 15, a ten-year-old girl was approached by a man asking her to go with him. Five days later an 11-year-old girl was approached by two men in a white car. A man approached a 16-year-old girl the next day on the same road, Kennington Lane.
Chief Inspector Nick Collins said: “Officers from Lambeth are currently investigating the incidents and are still trying to determine whether the same man or men were involved in all three.
“Whilst we do not wish to cause alarm I would ask the public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to us. I understand that the community will be concerned and I want to reassure parents and carers that we are treating this extremely seriously.”
In the most recent incident, two sisters were approached at a bust stop in Adswood on Thursday morning by a couple who tried to persuade them to get into a car.
Further incidents were reported in Cheadle and Cheadle Hulme.
Police do not believe all the reported incidents are related, but have advised families and schools to report anything suspicious.
Police released an E-fit of a man wanted in connection with the attempted abduction of a 10-year-old schoolboy in Cheadle on January 13.
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