Redmond police are still searching for a man who is suspected of trying to lure a child at Redmond Town Center on June 19.
As previously reported, the man approached an 11-year-old female at about 4:30 p.m. The girl was sitting on a bench in front of the Bath and Body Works store, waiting for her older sister who was in the store. The report stated that the man asked the girl several times to get into his vehicle — a late 1990s, grey, four-door, F-150 pick up with a “Ford” sticker on the rear passenger window. He also offered to drive her around, told her she could turn on the music in his car and offered her water.
When the girl told the man she was calling the police, the man left. No weapons were seen or implied and the man did not physically touch the girl.
The suspect was described as a white male, about 40 years of age, 5-foot-9 with a thin build. He had dirty blonde hair, which was slightly balding or thinning, goatee facial hair and bushy eyebrows. The man was wearing a white T-shirt that had some stains, khaki cargo shorts and dirty old white shoes. He had a nondescript tattoo on his left middle outer/distal shin. The girl also said he smelled of cigarettes.
If anyone believes they know the man or have any information that may help police, call (425) 556-2500 and ask for detective Jesse Bollerud.
KEEPING KIDS SAFE
Becky Range, public information officer for the Redmond Police Department (RPD), said police have received several tips from residents who have called in, but they have not been able to identify the man yet.
While the police have been receiving tips about the suspect, RPD also has some tips for families on how children can stay safe.
According to tips Range sent to the Reporter, if kids are in a situation similar to the 11-year-old girl, they should call 911. Children should not try to follow a suspect. And when they do call, they should know to listen to the dispatcher, speak clearly, answer any questions and don’t hang up until the dispatcher says to.
Children should also try to remember something about what the person looks like — what they’re wearing, any tattoos or scars and where they were last seen.
Kids should also know their full name, address and phone number as well as their parents’ full names and where they work.
In addition to calling 911, children should know to call for a police officer or firefighter if someone is badly hurt, a child is lost, a stranger approaches them or if they believe someone is trying to hurt them.
With the latter two situations, Amira Whitehill, a youth and family therapist for Youth Eastside Services (YES), said children and adolescents should know that even — and especially — if the stranger looks friendly, there can be danger, noting that oftentimes, a potential kidnapper does not look like how the movies portray them.
TALK AND TALK OFTEN
Both Whitehill and Range’s tips said parents should talk to their kids about stranger danger. “Educating children about safety is an ongoing task and you should take an active role to communicate this information with them,” the RPD website states. “Always have a plan for your children — what they will do in specific situations, who they should call and where they should go.”
Families should also play “what if” games to practice what they will do. If parents communicate this information, then children are less likely to “freeze” if their safety is jeopardized because they have already thought about what they are supposed to do.
Whitehill added that this needs to be an ongoing, two-way conversation with the children’s input on what it means for them to feel safe — because one time is not enough for children and adolescents to listen and comply. This is also why it is important to include the child or adolescent’s voice into the conversation, she said.
Whitehill said there also needs to be a conversation about which adults are safe to trust such as police officers, firefighters or others in uniform.
THE BUDDY SYSTEM AND CONSTANT COMMUNICATION
Both Whitehill and RPD stressed the importance of never going anywhere alone.
Even older teenagers should utilize the buddy system and be certain someone knows where they are going.
“It’s really necessary that they stay together unless there’s another buddy or trusted adult (with them),” Whitehill said.
She also said frequent communication is important so if a child or teen is going somewhere alone, parents should know what time they have arrived at their destination and when they leave and check in often.
In addition to using cell phones to call and check in, Whitehill said there are apps such as “Find My Friends” that can be used to track a person’s cell phone and share its location with trusted contacts.
But while cell phones can be useful for staying in touch, RPD said it is important to not get distracted. Children should know not to look down at their phones while walking in dark parking lots or on trails and they should stay alert and be aware of their surroundings.
STAYING SAFE IN A CROWD
With summer underway, many families are taking vacations and that can sometimes mean going to theme parks or other crowded venues.
Whitehill said in these situations, parents should talk to their children ahead of time to point out safe places they could go to in case they are separated such as the entrance of the park.
She and RPD said children should also be aware of the risk of a stranger asking them for “help.” Adults don’t need “help” from a child to find lost animals, get directions or anything else.
“If they are (asking for help), that’s a red flag,” Whitehill said.
And if a stranger tries to grab them, RPD said children should yell, “Help police!” or “This is not my parent!” They should also fight: kick, scratch, bite, spin, wiggle, drop their weight to the ground — anything to get away and cause a scene so that others know they need help.
Kids don’t always have to be polite, but they do always have to be safe, RPD said.