Archive for category Home Safety

Child Grooming

Child Grooming. Recognizing this behavior for what it is!!

Guest blog entry courtesy of Kim Estes.  Kim  is a child safety expert and the founder of Savvy Parents Safe Kids. Kim believes that every child deserves a safe childhood and that adults have the power to keep children safe.

The past week has been a firestorm surrounding the Penn State Child Sexual Abuse scandal. We have by now figured out what when wrong. We know horrible mistakes were made. We know horrific crimes were committed.

Walking in on a child being raped is obviously Child Sexual Abuse in progress. However, it didn’t start “just like that”.  Sandusky had a process that he followed to gain access to that child. So how exactly do predators get to the point where they have complete access to a child and complete immunity within a community?

The answer is simple. It is called grooming.

We hear about grooming of children, but before that can happen, a predator must groom the adults. Grooming adults clears the way to victimizing children.  If we want to stop children from becoming victims, we need to be able to identify when adults are being tricked and groomed and what the predators grooming steps are.

 

Steps and Signs of Child Grooming:

Identifies opportunities, organizations and communities with children

Builds trust through friendships and/or leadership (with the adults and children)

Begins to identify potential victims

Gains access to children

Begins testing boundaries (with children and adults)

Provides presents, praise and privileges (to both the adults and the children)

Creates secrecy

Abuse begins

Uses threats (towards children and sometimes adults) to keep their crimes secret

Adults are responsible for keeping the children in our lives safe. If you observe what you believe is child grooming in progress it is your duty to intervene. Talk to a supervisor, talk to your partner, talk to the police, talk to a specialist in Child Sexual Abuse prevention. Limit that person’s access to children immediately. Predators like to fly under the radar. If you start making noise and asking questions you will make it harder for them to be stealth in committing their crimes against children.

Visit Kim’s website at www.savvyparentssafekids.com

 

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Social Media Safety and Security

Our Predictability as a Vulnerability

Social media safety and security are a growing concern. As more people engage in social media the amount of information being shared in relatively open forums continues to grow.

Best practice is to post information and photos after an event rather than letting people know where you will be or where you are right now. It is also a good idea to be cautious about “checking in” when using locations based services. Geo location is a growing concern amongst social media safety experts.

If you exercise the discipline of only posting after an event, keep this tip in mind; if you frequent the restaurant or establishment mentioned in your post, you are still leaving a criminal with enough information to start building a predictive profile on you.

What do I mean by this? Simply put, our predictability is one of our primary vulnerabilities. It provides criminals a good map of when and where we will be.  This information helps them streamline their planning and victim selection process whether it may be a burglary or a violent crime on a person.

Humans are creatures of habit. We tend to walk and drive the same routes and stick to schedules that become quite obvious to those who might be observing. This is why those charged with protecting dignitaries and high profile people continuously change the routes, vehicles and departure times while transporting their clients.

Even if you are careful, but mention several times over the course of a few weeks that you are home from a specific location; a restaurant you frequent, your gym, your child’s school or a more regular after work activity, you have supplied enough information for someone to predict when you will be back at one of those locations.  This information greatly enhances the targeting opportunity.

So keep in mind, even if posting after an event, keep the specifics and location vague. Predictably is our Achilles Heel.  Again keep the specifics and location very vague!!

You might think that only friends and family in your social media network are privy to anything you share. You also might think that your friends have vetted the friends they share their platforms with.  Think again!

A Reuters article on a British company, Legal & General published some statistics from a study they did several years ago.

Their study revealed that only 13% of Facebook users vetted a friend request and a staggering 92% accepted new follows on Twitter without doing any checks!!

They also found that 38% of people on Twitter and Facebook would post about an upcoming vacation.

Social Media Safety Training Available onsite or in webinar format / One hour duration

Related:

Back to School Safety Tips — Social Media, Device Security, Malware by Christopher Burgess (For the Huffington Post )

Password- Creation and Usage – Online Safety & Security by Christopher Burgess

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Am I being followed by that vehicle?

The key point to remember is that you are much safer in a moving vehicle, even a slow moving vehicle, than when in or around a stationary vehicle.  So if you think you are being followed keep moving and consider the following strategies.

If you are able to, make three left (or three right) turns in a row.  You have essentially just driven in a “square circle” as it were, and the likelihood that you are NOT being followed is now almost zero; anyone who is still following you after this route detection / evasion maneuver should be considered a serious threat. A less brazen person would probably terminate their pursuit knowing they have been spotted.

Now proceed at safe speeds to the closest busy road, preferably a well light boulevard or even a highway.  Drive below the posted speed limit and turn on your hazard lights. This will draw attention to your vehicle.(In this situation you want to be pulled over by the police!) Slowing down also will allow you to get your bearings while operating the vehicle safely. While doing so initiate a 911 call. Try maintaining a consistent heading and make note of the cross streets. Most states require a hands free headset this making talking to the operator easier and safer.

Let the operator know you are being followed and then let the operator ask the questions. If you see a red light ahead, slow down and try time arriving at that intersection when the light is green so you don’t have to come to a full stop. If you have to come to a stop, leave a car length between you and the vehicle in front of you giving you space to maneuver if you have to. (You should make this a habit even if not being followed)

The operator will keep you on the line and he or she will direct a police car to intercept you.

This scenario is one reason it is always good to have more than half a tank of gas and to be always be generally aware of your location. A report in Seattle several years ago indicated that 25% of cell phone callers to 911 did not know enough about where they were making it almost impossible for emergency services to respond. Situational awareness is key.

In a situation like this it goes without saying you should not drive to work, home, your child’s school or any destination you frequent. This includes a friend’s house. If you will drive to a fire station or police station, let the operator know to which one you are heading so that a first responder can be curbside when you arrive. There have been cases where the person being followed has pulled into a busy grocery store lot in broad daylight and the perpetrator was brazen enough to still have tried to cut them off as they made their way on foot into the store.

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Home Invasions. Make Your home A Harder Target

 

Psychologically we are able to fathom a cagey burglar breaking in and stealing something when he knows we are not home. The notion that two or more criminals would burst in and invade when they know we are home is chilling.

This is not just a property crime. Home invasions include a display of power and a desire to control and terrorize, rob, kidnap, rape, assault or flat out murder the victim(s).  A growing number of invaders wear soft body armor and brandish intimidating weapons.  More often than not these are hardened criminals with extensive records who will not hesitate to resort to violence. The good news is that overall, home invasions tend to be on the decline, but solid safety and security protocol should always be in place. After all, favorable statistics mean nothing if heartless criminals target your dwelling.

Here are some things you can do to harden your home and make it less vulnerable to a home invasion.

If the home is recessed from the road, does the driveway have good lighting? A British study reveals that dusk-to-dawn low level lighting is thought to be a more effective deterrent than motion detector lights. I like both! Be sure the garage, parking area and sides of the dwelling are also well lit. Prune or remove bushes and shrubs that offer natural cover, especially near ground floor windows and all entrances.

If your property is fenced, take the time to close and lock gates. Ask yourself if your 230 pound nephew on football scholarship can kick in your front or side doors. If the answer is yes it’s time to beef up the frame, the door itself and all hardware. Deadbolts should have no less than an inch of travel into the frame.

Applying modern laminates to the glass makes breaking through a window more difficult.  Sliding glass doors must be reinforced. Windows to the basement should have bars.  A bed of small river pebbles strategically placed in front of windows make a quiet approach more difficult.

If you have an alarm, use it. Criminals know that most home owners never arm their systems. Know how to use the panic features. If you have a wireless panic button fob, keep it on you. Teach your children how to use the panic button too. When you park in the driveway, bring the remote to the garage in with you. Always lock your internal garage door. This is a common entry point since invaders know we tend to leave that door unlocked.

It is best to close drapes at dusk, dawn and during night time hours.  During their surveillance phase, criminals will feel less sure about attacking if they cannot establish who is at home, in what rooms, and if they can account for everyone in the dwelling.  Be aware that an invader might have done pre-crime surveillance of the home when delivering something, or working as an installation technician etc. Instruct children to never open the door for a stranger and be wary of any unexpected visitor, even during the day.

Don’t leave stepladders on the side of the house. They offer easy access to upper floors.  So always lock upper story patio doors and easy to access windows.

Keep all doors to the home locked, even during the day.  You would be surprised at how many people don’t, stating, “But we live in a safe neighborhood”.  Long gone is that nostalgic and care free Norman Rockwell existence. Anything can happen anywhere at any time. If someone is determined to get in, make them work for it. Anything that allows you detect and delay an entry buys you time to react. An unlocked door gives you neither.

Designate a “Safe Room” with a sturdy door where you can retreat with your cell phone if need be. Be sure that you receive a cell signal in this room. Keep an index card with your home address, a flash light, bottles of water and a fire extinguisher in the safe room. If you are not calling from a land line, the 9-1-1 operator will not know your address. You can easily read your address from the card if you are in a state of fear.  Make your children aware of this room and why it exists. Practice moving to it efficiently as a family. If you live in a larger or two-story home, you may want to setup more than one safe room.

Remain alert when leaving or returning to your neighborhood.  If you think you are being followed do not drive home. Proceed back to a well lit busy area or a police station and call for help.  In the case of the home  invasion and murder of Dr. Petit’s family in Cheshire Connecticut last year, the perpetrators first noticed Mrs. Petit and her daughters when they were in town shopping and then followed them home.

If you don’t already have one, get a dog. Large or small, they are excellent early warning systems with far better special senses than ours.  Dogs are also consistent in their vigilance unlike us humans who become complacent, take short cuts and eventually forget about the golden rules of home and personal safety.

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School Is In. A Safety Review for your Children.

(As written for Evergreen Safety Council, Seattle WA)

The summer is almost over and as our children  go back to school, this is a good time to review some safety ground rules with them.

Communications: Any safety plan is only as good as its communications plan. This should include having your children call or text you when leaving school and upon arriving at their destination. They should also let you know if their after school plans have changed. Be sure that yours and a reliable backup’s contacts number are programmed into their speed dialer.  Remind your children to trust their instincts and not to hesitate to call for help if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation even if this means dialing 911.

Awareness: Be more creative when reminding your children about the importance of awareness. Perhaps a short list of sound bites that conjure up more engaging visual associations will result in actionable instruction. How about “Remember to Cover Your Six” (the blind spot behind them) or “Keep your head on the swivel” (as fighter pilots do looking for the enemy) or “Keep your radar up!”   A relaxed state of awareness of our surroundings is the cornerstone of personal safety and children should be reminded not to drop their guard just because they are in familiar surroundings.

Posture and Gait: People who walk with confident stride and posture and who maintain a good heads up awareness of their surroundings are seen as less desirable targets.  In contrast, those shuffling along” heads down” with rounded shoulders and  not scanning their surroundings, are seen as easy prey. This group is usually distracted by a phone or iPod or often daydreaming.  This is not unlike in the animal kingdom where the gazelle that fails to look around while drinking at the river gets ambushed by the lion. Practice attentive body language with your children at home and make it a fun exercise.

Predictability: Our children come and go at the same time and most often walk the same routes to and from school the bus stop and other common destinations. This predictability makes them easier to locate and follow. Drive several safe routes with your child to help them map out their options.  Ask them at breakfast which routes they have planned to use that day which will help get them in the habit of employing this important safety strategy.

“Safe Havens” : Identify and review with your children the locations they know they could retreat to if they feel uncomfortable. Neighbors on your street who you know are home during the day along the walk home from the bus stop should be identified. Simply walking to a busy intersection nearby or entering a busy store of coffee shop if there is someone in their midst that makes them uncomfortable should be encouraged. From here they can call you for help and instructions.

“Fringe” Areas: Simply stated, this is any area where you could find yourself isolated.  This could be a covered parking garage or a quiet soccer field behind the school that no one can see from the road.  A busy school gymnasium that has just emptied out after a Friday night basketball game has now too become a fringe area. If you must return to retrieve something left behind, do so with a friend.  Remind you child to avoid isolated areas and NOT TO TAKE SHORTCUTS such as down service alleys behind grocery stores and office buildings! The long way around on busy streets is always worth the extra effort!

The Buddy System:  Encourage your children to walk in groups whenever possible. They should also buddy up when going to the restroom at the mall.  This is even more important if your child will walk along a quiet road or transition through a fringe area to or from school etc. Never go jogging alone on a park trail. This is where the buddy system is the golden rule that should never be broken. Another tip is to walk facing traffic making it difficult for a vehicle to pull alongside.  Maintaining distance from the curb is also a good strategy.

“Shadowing” When riding the bus home instruct your child to keep an eye out of back window as it gets closer to their stop. If they notice the same vehicle behind the bus for an unusually long period of time or seem to remember seeing that vehicle on a prior day they need to consider if the bus is being “shadowed”. Empower your child to bring any suspicious vehicle to the bus driver’s attention and to stay on the bus until an alternate arrangement has been made.  This is an example of where having a good communication strategy is important.

Intuition: If the mind is the best weapon, then our intuition is our ever present guardian that should NEVER be ignored. Empower your child with the understanding that even if their intuition turns out to be “wrong” from time to time, that there is “no harm in a false alarm” and to continue to honor that “gut feeling”

Larry Kaminer

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