When Letting Your Child Play Outside is a Crime, Thanks to a Fear of Sex Offenders

Readers — Here’s a story that has been getting attention: Florida mom Nicole Gainey let her 7 year old walk to the park, and on the way, some adults feared for his safety and called the cops. The cops swooped in, scooped up the boy and drove him home. Then they arrested the mom, because there are “sex offenders” all over the place, so apparently the mom deliberately placed her child in danger.

I’m grateful that the Huffington Post called yesterday to get my take. From the piece by Caroline Bologna:

Lenore Skenazy, who wrote “Free Range Kids” and gives lectures around the world about “how we got so afraid for our children,” spoke to The Huffington Post about this latest incident. “Are we supposed to lock all our children inside for their safety at all times, and then we’re negligent child abusers if we don’t?” she said. “The idea that there are predators everywhere is a false one,” she added, noting that violent crime rates have dropped down to low levels not seen since the days before color TV and the time when gas only cost 29 cents per gallon. Skenazy also cited an Economist study on sex offender laws in Georgia, which found that only 5 percent of the people on the registry posed an actual threat to children.

The study wasn’t actually BY The Economist, but it was IN the Economist and I’m thrilled she included a link. Here is the part of the piece I was referring to:

As a share of its population, America registers more than four times as many people as Britain, which is unusually harsh on sex offenders. America’s registers keep swelling, not least because in 17 states, registration is for life.

Georgia has more than 17,000 registered sex offenders. Some are highly dangerous. But many are not. And it is fiendishly hard for anyone browsing the registry to tell the one from the other. The Georgia Sex Offender Registration Review Board, an official body, assessed a sample of offenders on the registry last year and concluded that 65% of them posed little threat. Another 30% were potentially threatening, and 5% were clearly dangerous. The board recommended that the first group be allowed to live and work wherever they liked. The second group could reasonably be barred from living or working in certain places, said the board, and the third group should be subject to tight restrictions and a lifetime of monitoring. A very small number “just over 100” are classified as “predators”, which means they have a compulsion to commit sex offences. When not in jail, predators must wear ankle bracelets that track where they are.

So, I wish for three things:

1 – I wish society would give parents the benefit of the doubt when they let kids do things on their own, instead of immediately treating them as negligent jerks.

2 – I wish people wouldn’t assume that just because someone is on the sex offender registry, he or she  automatically poses a threat to children.

3 – And I wish that  the registry wasn’t public. It is making the population — and the police — paranoid while showing no effect whatsoever on making children safer.

Can I have one more wish? (Heck, the Blog Fairy isn’t that picky, right?) It’s this: That we send our kids outside IN DROVES. The reaction to stories like this one shouldn’t be to lock our kids inside for fear of the cops. It should be to flood the streets and parks with children, if only to drive the drive the busybodies crazy. – L

Stay away, kids!

Stay away, kids!

, , , , , ,

109 Responses to When Letting Your Child Play Outside is a Crime, Thanks to a Fear of Sex Offenders

  1. Dirk July 31, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Arresting her for on thing is of course a bit much. I guess that is why according to the article linked at the top of the blog the Florida Department of Children and Families told the mom she could “expect the case to be dropped.”

  2. J- July 31, 2014 at 10:08 am #

    I caught this on the news the other day and was waiting to see it pop up here.

    Let me pose a reasonable question: had this been a school day, assuming this child lives 1/2 mile from his school, would the mom be equally negligent allowing her son to walk to school in the morning? If said predators are everywhere, posing a constant danger, wouldn’t all parents who let there kids walk to school be guilty of negligence? Does the busybody report kids walking to school or the bus stop?

    This mom needs to be released and then sue the police and the state.

  3. Buffy July 31, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Terrific post, Lenore.

  4. E July 31, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    @J, if you go to the news story linked from the Reason story, some commenters mention that the state law in FL for bus service to school is 1.5 miles. They mention that the local school distract offers bus service for a closer distance, but the state’s limit is 3x as far as this kid went.

    It’s appalling.

    @Dirk — not only was she arrested, she was charged with a felony. There’s a big difference between expecting the case “to be dropped” and not getting charged at all. The financial burden alone (but that’s just part of it).

    I like the Mom’s attitude, but I hate that she feels like he can’t do this now because of fear she’ll get arrested again.

  5. Warren July 31, 2014 at 10:36 am #

    All these people that constantly check the registry, in order to keep their kids safe………..does their registry show the exact location of the offenders in real time? No, it only shows where they live. So unless the offender is a complete shut in, and never leaves their home………..

    The registry has to be torn down to its foundations and rebuilt, for law enforcement only. The public has no need to know any of it.

  6. Cindy Karnitz July 31, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    The entire logic of the police is flawed. The child and the parents have committed no crime. If there is fear from sex offenders, even if unjustified, then monitor, restrict the movements of and harass the offenders. (Do stores remain open even though *gasp* there are robbers out there?)

    Thank yoy Lemoore for raising these issues and holding a mirror to the hypocrisy.

  7. BL July 31, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    Aren’t there sex offenders who target adults? Should all adults stay inside?

    (I know, I shouldn’t be giving these people ideas …)

  8. Michelle July 31, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    “Can I have one more wish? (Heck, the Blog Fairy isn’t that picky, right?) It’s this: That we send our kids outside IN DROVES. The reaction to stories like this one shouldn’t be to lock our kids inside for fear of the cops. It should be to flood the streets and parks with children, if only to drive the drive the busybodies crazy.”

    I wish this, too. It was my first reaction to having the cops called on me, but it seems reckless after being told by CPS that — even though they admit I did nothing wrong — they will be “forced” to pursue action against me if busybody neighbors keep calling the police.

  9. Beth July 31, 2014 at 11:04 am #

    “The registry has to be torn down to its foundations and rebuilt, for law enforcement only.”

    While I agree with this in theory, I’m not convinced that even law enforcement knows how to appropriately interpret the registry. Look at this case-there are sex offenders “all over the place”, but obviously the police have no idea which of these might actually be a threat to a child playing at the park. The park….which is right in the middle of “sex-offenders-all-over-the-place territory, it seems……

  10. LP July 31, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    This is ridiculous and frustrating and every other adjective you can think of along those lines.

    Here’s what I’d like to know though: if we’re arresting parents for the “what ifs” how many parents are being arrested for the “it actually happened”? I know it sounds harsh and cruel, but really if we follow the crazy logic of this type of thing then shouldn’t parents who have *actually had* a child be abducted or molested be charged? And charged harshly because it is surely their fault this happened….they weren’t being diligent enough obviously. They used their own judgement in a situation and clearly it was flawed and they ought to be thrown in jail for that for a long, long time. Isn’t actual murder punished with more time in jail than attempted muder?

  11. gap.runner July 31, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    “There are sex offenders all over the place…” The cop neglected to say what types of sex offenders. It seems like anyone can end up on a sex offender registry in the States. People who drop their pants and moon someone and serial rapists are both considered sex offenders. However, the mooner was probably a drunk high school or college student who did it one time as a lark.

    I think that people look at the registries and get hysterical over the number of “sex offenders” in the area. But if they looked closely, they would see that most of them ended up on the registry for: mooning, streaking, public urination, sexting, or being 18 and having sex with a 16-year-old girlfriend.

    If people really want to protect their kids from sex offenders, they should keep their precious Snowflakes away from their friends and relatives. Most kids are molested by people that they know.

    People in the States have really gone over the top in the name of child safety. If the police in Germany arrested every parent for letting a child go places unattended, the jails would be full of negligent mothers and fathers. There would be no room for real criminals.

  12. Dirk July 31, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    I wonder how many times this happens a day and the cops just issue a warning or even just help out or even just check on the situation and let it go and tell the “busybodies” they over reacted. Like what happens 99 times out of a 100 or 1 time out of 100?

  13. Andy July 31, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    @Dirk Cop issuing warning over seven years old going to park is still cop going too far. Seven years old should be fully able to get to park or school alone, unless there is a major super dangerous highway with no lights in the middle.

  14. Maggie in VA July 31, 2014 at 11:47 am #

    Yes, it’s the arrest of moms like Gainey and Debra Harrell that have my jaw dropping. OK, assuming law enforcement thinks there is something wrong about the parents’ behavior, what is the appropriate response? With Harrell, I would think it would be to counsel, “Ms. Harrell, don’t you think your daughter is playing too long unsupervised at the park [where, incidentally, volunteers were giving out free meals exactly because they knew kids from low-income families were there]? Did you know there are programs at [x,y,z Oh!, no summer programs for kids of working parents? And why is that?]. We’ll have someone from our public liaison office come by this evening to talk with you about them.” Or, “Hi, Ms. Gainey, were you aware your son didn’t walk directly to the playground, but stopped by the pool long enough that it attracted the workers’ attention? You might need to have a talk with him about not taking detours when you give him permission to go somewhere.” But, no, it’s straight to the handcuffs. Oh, well, I guess it’s easier and safer arresting innocent moms than gang bangers.

  15. AB July 31, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    “The entire logic of the police is flawed.”

    YES. This is a point that isn’t made enough. The logic of the police is: “There are bad people out there. So don’t go out there.” The JOB of the police is to make it safe for citizens – not to revoke the freedoms of citizens or concede entire neighborhoods/parks.

  16. MichaelF July 31, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    I’ve been on my local police email alert list for about a year now, finally today I get one about someone on “the list” who is attending a community college in town. I guess I’ll need to keep my kids on lock down now.

  17. Warren July 31, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    @Maggie,
    While I like that you think the arrests are wrong, I think your alternatives are wrong as well.

    These parents and these kids did nothing wrong, and that is all there is to it. They do not need arresting, counseling, warnings or reminders. What they do need is for busybodies to mind their own business, and for the police to bud out of parenting calls.

    A mother that allows her kid to go to the park to play, is a good mother, doing a great job. Not someone that should be cited, counselled, reprimanded or anything.

    It is time the police dept’s grew some balls, and stood up to the busybodies, instead of picking on good parents.

  18. Warren July 31, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    MichealF,
    Why would you even be on the email alert in the first place?

  19. AB July 31, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    @Maggie, you wrote:

    OK, assuming law enforcement thinks there is something wrong about the parents’ behavior, what is the appropriate response? With Harrell, I would think it would be to counsel, “Ms. Harrell, don’t you think your daughter is playing too long unsupervised at the park [where, incidentally, volunteers were giving out free meals exactly because they knew kids from low-income families were there]? Did you know there are programs at [x,y,z Oh!, no summer programs for kids of working parents? And why is that?]. We’ll have someone from our public liaison office come by this evening to talk with you about them.” Or, “Hi, Ms. Gainey, were you aware your son didn’t walk directly to the playground, but stopped by the pool long enough that it attracted the workers’ attention? You might need to have a talk with him about not taking detours when you give him permission to go somewhere.”

    That’s the exact type of (quasi-racist) BS nannyist mentality that led to the situation we’re now in. Don’t you dare presume that I need some sort of social worker lecture me about how I raise my kids because I let my 8-year old ride her bike around the neighborhood. Screw you.

  20. Donna July 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    “The registry has to be torn down to its foundations and rebuilt, for law enforcement only.”

    The police don’t need a registry. Most of the information contained in the registry could be known to them without it. The one exception would be the ability to put in an address and get every sex offender within a certain radius.

    I’m not sure that this is a bad thing for police to not have access to. After all, for no other crime do the police just get to go round up every person who has been previously convicted of the same crime for questioning. If your house gets robbed, they can’t just log into the thief registry and go out accuse everyone who has ever been convicted of theft in the area of robbing your house. I’m not even sure that they would find this a reasonable use of police time. And I can’t really remember a case where the police did this general sweep of local sex offenders when a kid went missing and actually found the child with a convicted sex offender so it is not like this ability is saving tons of kids … or even one.

  21. K2 July 31, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    My admittedly limited knowledge of the topic is that a teen that is in good shape physically would actually be at higher risk than a younger kid and is actually allowed some unsupervised time. The teen or even 18 year-old will have no idea of how to handle situations that may be potentially dangerous as they have little practice being independent and putting into practice advice about strangers etc. I think our laws are too strict and the penalties that go with them are too strict and because of this in many cases they do more harm than they do good.

  22. K2 July 31, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    2nd comment: I think that our society also puts the responsibility of preventing the crime whatever it may be on the lawabiding person (i.e. the entire country dhas to buy antivirus software, supervision laws, etc). Maintaing a free society would require that the person who actually committed the crime be blamed and that huge preventive measures not be taken. Our forefathers didn’t plan for a country that needed a lot of preventive measures.

  23. Warren July 31, 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Donna,
    I agree. I was just admitting that the paranoid masses will never allow the elimination of the registry, but might be willing to leave it in the hands of law enforcement only.

  24. Tom Mahon July 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    Lenore,

    You know I love you.

    But it’s long overdue that we stopped “wishing” and started “doing”.

  25. Jenny Islander July 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    @Cindy Karnitz: Exactly. It’s as if the people who are charged with protecting children outside the home are simultaneously convinced that every other human being on the planet is a slobbering monster and that this is a normal condition, like weather, that good and smart people try to avoid.

  26. Tim July 31, 2014 at 12:33 pm #

    Whether the charges are dropped or not, she and her child are still suffering the trauma of being charged with a felony. There can be lawyer’s fees, unwanted publicity, the threat of losing your child and even job loss. This isn’t light stuff.

    It’s sad that it’s becoming normalized in our society for children to remain closely supervised at all times in public. What is considered a crime isn’t always what is truly wrong, but what is seen as outside the norms of society. I strongly agree with the idea of flooding the streets with children to help reverse this trend.

  27. tdr July 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Speaking to your last wish, Lenore — unfortunately due to the relatively low birth rate there are not droves of kids to send outsite.

    Have more kids, people! (everyone but me of course — 3 is enough)

    If you have 5 or 6 kids, how likely are you to monitor and track every last one of them? How likely are you to want them to stay IN when they could go OUT??

    And once again… to quote an actual parent in my neighborhood on why she isn’t comfortable letting her kid play outside**:

    “There are all these kidnappers running around.”

    (I just love that quote for its ridiculousness.)

    **She lets him go out anyway even though it makes her nervous.

  28. tdr July 31, 2014 at 12:40 pm #

    I am not one to cry “racism” every time I see a person of color arrested for something ridiculous, but I have to wonder about the circumstances that prompt the police to arrest and charge rather than simply comment?

    What is the demographic profile of these women (it’s usually women, from what’s posted here) who get arrested vs lectured or “informed”? And what is wrong with the police force of Atlanta? Many of these overreach stories seem to come from that city.

  29. anonymous mom July 31, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    The irony, of course, is that the reason there’s so many sex offenders in FL is because of FL’s policies about sex offenses. Everybody goes on the public registry for life. Plus, the age of consent is 18 (although if you are 16/17 you are allowed to sleep with somebody up to age 23), so a 24 year old guy who sleeps with a 17 year old has to register FOR LIFE as a sex offender in FL. Basically, FL’s registry is completely glutted with single-time, non-violent, statutory or victimless offenders who are required to be on a public registry for the rest of their lives, no matter their age when they committed their offense or their conduct in the ensuing years/decades.

    In fact, FL has so many people on their sex offender registry, that they had to create a subcategory of “sexual predators,” which includes those who 1) had a victim 13 or under, 2) committed a violent offense against anybody of any age, or 3) committed more than one offense. About 13% of FL sex offenders are considered “predators,” which also means that the other 87% of those forced to be on FL’s registry for life committed a single non-violent statutory or victimless offense, not exactly the kind of people we should assume pose more of a threat to a 7yo going to the park than anybody else would.

    It’s ridiculous. When will we realize that these lists do not make us safer? No other country in the world has this kind of public registry, and many of those countries are significantly safer for kids than the U.S. Minnesota puts the least people on a public registry out of any state (they only put those who have committed sexually violent offenses on the list, so those who committed victimless or statutory offenses are just on a police registry, not on one that can be viewed by the public), and MN is one of the safest states in the nation for kids. Americans need to wake the hell up about a lot of things involving our attitudes toward criminal justice.

  30. anonymous mom July 31, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    And before anybody clutches their pearls and insists how so-very-wrong it is for a 24 year old to sleep with a 17 year old, that’s not the issue. The issue is whether that 24 year old poses such a threat to the general public that he should be on a list of men who pose such a danger to children that they need to be on a public list. And, I don’t see how any sane person could believe that.

    The sex offender registry was not designed to be a list of guys who, when they were in their late teens and 20s, would have had sex with your teenager daughter if she’d been willing and eager to do so, and yet that’s increasingly what it’s become.

  31. AmyO July 31, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I agree with Cindy and AB. If the police spent more time arresting criminals than parents, then maybe they wouldn’t be so worried about a child walking down the street.

  32. J- July 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    @Amy

    One of my favorite quotes about government is by Ayn Rand:

    “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

    It is easier to crack down on a mother and 7 year old than it is to prevent crime.

    @E

    I read the article and that was my point. During the school year, by the logic of these officers, every parent within 1.5 miles of the school is guilty of negligence if they allow their kids to walk to school.

  33. J.T. Wenting July 31, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    The registry is an abomination. If someone’s too dangerous to be let loose in society he shouldn’t be released from prison (or where ever he’s locked up).
    That’s the major fallacy there. People get a life sentence by being put on the registry and having their life after release ruined by vigilantes and having to constantly report in to the police, can’t get jobs, can’t get decent housing, etc. etc.

  34. Jenna K. July 31, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    I saw this on the national news yesterday and was thoroughly annoyed. I guess every parent who lets a child walk to school must be negligent, or walk down the street to a friend’s house, or lets a child out of their eyesight for any moment of any day. I guess my kids should all share a room so I can watch them sleep too.

    I had a neighbor ask if her kids (ages 8 and 6) could walk with me and my kids to school. I told her that I didn’t walk with my kids and that they usually rode their bikes anyway, and her kids would be free to join them if she wanted them to. She got clearly anxious about the idea of her kids walking or riding bikes without an adult present and has opted to drive them instead. I feel sorry for her kids.

  35. E July 31, 2014 at 3:40 pm #

    @AB – whoa, coming on a little strong with Maggie eh? How was her post racist?

    Anyway – if you read what she wrote, she was talking about when there may be a reason to question. Because believe it or not, sometimes crap happens. Sometimes kids don’t do what they are supposed to. Sometimes kids are the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes someone’s car breaks down. Maggie specifically was framing situations where it might be legit to make sure all is well. Do we expect everyone to always completely ignore other people without even asking if they need help. She’s suggesting that instead of creating a legal situation, that people (and police) communicate their concern or be helpful. What they did to the Mom was not helpful.

    I’ve waited with kids (who I didn’t know) in an empty school parking lot because the parents were late picking them up (for all I know the kids forgot to call) and it was dark, chilly, and it seemed like the right thing to do. Would they have been harmed? Probably not, but it seemed like a nice thing to do as I was the last one leaving after closing up a concession stand. I’ve done it at soccer practices when I know certain kids parents have difficulty getting there on time….I don’t call the police.

    And maybe that’s a takeway. If something seems odd to me (and I’m not suggesting what this kid did was odd, just talking in the hypothetical) and I knew the Mom, I’d call her…like any of us would. No one would call the police instead of the parents if they knew them. But to call the police because you don’t? Shouldn’t those parent be afforded the same grace you’d extend to a known family?

    But MOREVER, when the police ARE called — they shouldn’t behave in the manner we see here. If they want to talk to the Mom, then talk to the Mom…and that’s it.

  36. Anne July 31, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    When I hear about more and more stories like this, I DO get scared. Not that my child will be abducted or molested. But that by letting him have the age appropriate freedoms that we are confident he can handle, I will be the next one of these stories! He is six and a half. He does six and a half year old things. We do not expect him to get on the city bus and ride to the mall. But if he wanted to walk the two blocks to his grandparents house, I’m sure he could do it just fine. I wouldn’t worry about him getting lost or hurt or stolen. I WOULD worry about me getting a visit from the police! And there is really, really, really something wrong with feeling that way!

  37. Andy July 31, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    @E Cops are not child raising experts. Cops child raising opinions are as accurate and valid as the vegetable stand lady down the road.

    Maggies cop specifically said these things, reordered according to unwelcomness (no I would not talked that way to a cop):

    * “Hi, Ms. Gainey, were you aware your son didn’t walk directly to the playground, but stopped by the pool long enough that it attracted the workers’ attention? You might need to have a talk with him about not taking detours when you give him permission to go somewhere.”

    – Wtf? The kid took detour (if it did) and some pool worker talked to him, so now I have to deal with cops? Alright if the kid did something wrong or attempted to go to that pool uninvited. Other then that, it is not a case for cops.

    * Did you know there are programs at […]. We’ll have someone from our public liaison office come by this evening to talk with you about them.”

    – I do not want public liaison officer coming to my house this evening to talk me about summer programs. Not unless I invite him. Mom decided the kid can go to park. Family have her own program for the evening.

    * Ms. Harrell, don’t you think your daughter is playing too long unsupervised at the park.

    – No I do not think so. Or, give me allowed maximum of unsupervised play at the park my kid can have without you bothering me. And not on the case by case guess what next cop thinks about it.

    * [where, incidentally, volunteers were giving out free meals exactly because they knew kids from low-income families were there]?

    – If they are dangerous, shouldn’t you be there breaking fights and such? Or something? My kid did not complained about any troubles in that park so far, my kid is at home at agreed upon time every day, I never encountered problems in that park and my kid has consistently good grades, so I do not think he is in the way to join the gang.

  38. EricS July 31, 2014 at 4:28 pm #

    And really, with more kids outside playing, there is more of them to watch out for each other. Make friends. And experience. The very, very few downsides to this are completely overshadowed by the upsides. It will even help bring back the community mentality back into communities that avoid their neighbours. But again, it’s always the adults that make it worse for children.

  39. AB July 31, 2014 at 4:31 pm #

    What Andy said.

    “We’ll have someone from our public liaison office come by this evening to talk with you about them…”

    And if I refuse to let them in my house or speak to my child, then what? You’ll call DCFS? Get a warrant? Take my children? Enroll me into mandatory parenting classes? Arrest me?

    That type of attitude, that the state can make judgements – and threats – based on differences in parenting style, is why we need Free Range Kids.

    Moreover, Maggie’s entire post is built on the presumption that there’s something wrong with letting a 9-year old go to the park alone.

    Me, I refuse to concede that point in the first place. I believe letting a 9-year old go to the park alone is a sign of good parenting, that it be beneficial for my child’s development and growth.

    Disagree if you want. But stay away from my children.

  40. EricS July 31, 2014 at 4:33 pm #

    @J-: Using the mentality of many today (fearing predators are everywhere). Technically, if you take your eyes off your child even for one second, your are “negligent”, and therefore should be arrested. Given this logic, most parents would be in jail right now. Hey, even when asleep, someone can break into your house and kidnap your child. So you have to be awake 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Or else, you will be negligent.

    The idiot thinking of these people like to pick and choose when a parent is negligent. As if it’s not about “keeping an eye on their children”, but rather, “what is convenient for busy bodies to report”. And authorities aren’t anymore intelligent. Because they too don’t use common sense and just go by on hear say of busy bodies. Like the blind leading the blind, who have little to no information on where they are going.

  41. Warren July 31, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

    My neighbour asked me after reading this article, what I would do if the cops brought my kid home for being in the park unsupervised.

    Told her I would do the same as her, “Tell my kid to go back to the park.”. Right infront of the cop, then tell the cop, “My kid, my autority. Now go do your job, and leave my kid alone.”.

  42. Kenny Felder July 31, 2014 at 5:08 pm #

    It might make an interesting blog if you invited all your readers to submit their 1-3 Free Range wishes. Here are mine.

    1. I wish more people had the common sense that Lenore Skenazy displays every single day.

    2. I wish that people who make and enforce laws about danger were required to base them on statistics. You’re allowed to think and feel whatever you want, but before your thoughts and feelings pass into laws and judgments, they have to be based on facts.

    3. In particular, I wish that the government could not make anything “illegally dangerous to children” that is *less* dangerous–that is, less probable to lead to serious injury and/or death–than driving them to a movie.

  43. Lance Mitaro July 31, 2014 at 5:17 pm #

    Don’t go swimming in the ocean, there are sharks “in the area” that will eat you alive.

    Yeah, we haven’t overcome that fear, have we?

    This cop has obviously been watching too many SVU marathons and drank too much John Walsh Kool-aid.

    Individuals that have lost a child should NOT be allowed to cavort with lawmakers in order to sanction hate against a segment of society under a “guilt by association” pretense. These people are emotionally biased and their ignorance is dangerous.

    What good is the “knowledge is power” byline when a vast majority of those on the registry are non-credible safety threats to society, much less children?

  44. SteveS July 31, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    Oh, bull shit, Warren. I am surprised you wouldn’t just beat up the cop and then tell your kid to go back to the park. Have you ever told off the cops?

  45. Warren July 31, 2014 at 6:42 pm #

    Well, seems like I picked up a stalker.

    Steve,

    Why would I attack the officer? He/she is not threatening or acting aggresively.

    And yes I have had a couple of occassions to give a cop a piece of my mind, and told them off.
    Like any profession, their are good one, okay ones and jerks, and uniform or not, you do not have to put up with the jerks. So yes I have told off a cop or two. Considering the amount of interaction we have with them, due to work, I am surprised it is only a cop or two.

    Again, Steve, don’t challenge me online. Little men like you need to come out of mom’s basement, man up, and say it to my face. Only cowards hide behind a screen, and mom’s apron.

  46. Papilio July 31, 2014 at 7:34 pm #

    But Lenore, weren’t you the Witty Witch of the Web – why would you need a Blog Fairy? 😀

    “65% of [Georgia SOs] posed little threat” and should “be allowed to live and work wherever they liked.”

    So kick them off the registry! (If you don’t get rid of the entire thing, that is.)

    “The police picked up the boy while he was playing at the park”
    Nice opportunity for hide-and-seek…

    @Cindy, AB: “Watch out, there’s a sniper in that street! Go buy a bulletproof vest or stay inside. Have a nice day!”

  47. SteveS July 31, 2014 at 7:54 pm #

    Stalker, don’t flatter yourself, keyboard commando. Blowhards like you get off on bullying people with condescending BS. I have been here for months. I am just calling you out for being full of it. Afraid of you? Not in a million years. Grow the F up.

    I have long seen you be rude to most of the people here and just took you for some crotchedy crank that occasionally said something wise. At the risk of using a tired cliche, then you jumped the shark. Some of you internet bravado seems semi-plausible, but beating up the cops?!?! I know convicted felons with more common sense.

    I am not going to stalk you, but if you say something stupid, expect to be called out on it.

  48. hineata July 31, 2014 at 9:24 pm #

    Oh, I shouldn’t say it, but I can’t resist…. :-)

    Please, Canada, employ some Samoan/Pasifika police. And then send a couple of them round to question Warren’ parenting decisions – with a video camera present…

    I predict a five second display, roughly the time it would take for Warren to attempt an assault on Cop Two, giving Cop One time enough to draw her fist back and launch the killer punch.

  49. hineata July 31, 2014 at 9:34 pm #

    Back on the actual topic, having the cops called on unsupervised kids in NZ is incredibly rare, but I did have someone call the cops when Midge (who was 8 at the time but looked about 5) decided I had left her behind and I wasn’t going to take her on a promised walk. I come down the street (8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, rest of the household is asleep), to find her outside and up the road in her pajamas screaming hysterically. I don’t blame a neighbour (some of whom we didn’t know then) for ringing someone, though I would personally have gone out to see what the kid was doing.

    But even when, after a darn good telling off, we were walking back and the police showed up, I wasn’t arrested….they just asked what the crazy kid was doing, and told her not to do it again.

    We don’t have big enough jails, I suppose, to waste them on this kind of freak show.

  50. Warren July 31, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    Well Steve, you do what you want. Believe what you want.

    I have neither the time nor desire to prove myself, to a coward.

  51. Warren July 31, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

    hineata,

    Bring it on. Since Steve is too much a coward, send someone. I could use the workout. Sounds like fun.

  52. E July 31, 2014 at 10:07 pm #

    @hineata, I think the scenario you talked about is what Maggie was getting at….occasionally situations might attract attention, but that doesn’t mean they all require action beyond communication. There will never be an absence of reports but that doesn’t mean they all need a legal outcome,

    For those objecting to the “kid in the park example”. She admitted she couldn’t afford childcare, why wouldn’t she want options for her daughter if they were available? Given her choices were sitting at McDs alone or outside, it seems like familiarity with programs would be a good thing. As a working mom myself, ,I know it much easier to focus on your job if you don’t have to scramble or worry about childcare arrangements.

  53. heather July 31, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

    In a bit of good news… The original article and story ran on a local news page and the comments under the story were very supportive of the mother. I read nearly fifteen replies before 1 negative reply and that person got jumped on by the other commenters.

    This area is only an hour south of where I grew up and many children go outside alone at that age or with friends and it has always been considered normal which is why the people responding to the story responded the way they did.

  54. J.T. Wenting August 1, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    reminds me of the idiocy that in the US children can get a drivers license at 16 and drive their own cars all over town, but if they’re in the car with someone else they need to be in a child seat and if that other person leaves them in the car for only a second to say go pay for gas he can get arrested for endangering a child…

  55. SOA August 1, 2014 at 12:22 am #

    It seems like every day I hear another news story like this. I don’t fear predators that much but I do fear something like this happening to me. My son with autism runs away from me and I end up in jail. My capable son walks down the street to a friend’s house and I go to jail. Its nuts.

  56. Susan Eckert August 1, 2014 at 1:26 am #

    I am really happy that my son is grown.

  57. Andy August 1, 2014 at 2:40 am #

    @E The “offer” coming from a cop that just is prevented your kid from playing in a park is not the same as generally available offer.

    The important questions are:
    * Can she refuse the offer easily?
    * Is the cop coming back again tomorrow if the kid is in park again?
    * Can she refuse the evening liaison public officer easily without that cop coming back again?
    * Without that cop taking it personally or as a mark of bad parenting and causing her additional troubles?
    * What about if she refuse (for whatever reason) the offer, will the cop seek neglect charges then? Arrest her?

    If there is any doubt over what answers to the above questions are, then you just used law enforcement corp to force particular parenting choice on that parent.

    I can refuse generally available offers as rudely as I want and they will consider me a jerk at worst. It is safe to refuse. As this thread proves, rudely telling off the cop is an entirely different thing only few feel comfortable to do. The cop can (apparently) arrest me when he think I do not cooperate enough or offended him.

    And that is the difference. Cop has additional power, authority and rights other people do not have. They are not social workers, they are law enforcement.

  58. SteveS August 1, 2014 at 7:47 am #

    Warren, why would he send someone? Are you in middle school or something? Do you really think someone is going to make an international trip, embarrass you in front of your mom, and then risk prosecution? Doubt it. You probably limit your hollow threats to people you know aren’t local. Pathetic.

    Are you incapable of engaging in an intelligent debate? Instead of providing some kind of logical answer, you insult, belittle, or throw out hollow threats.

  59. AB August 1, 2014 at 8:28 am #

    @Andy

    Cop has additional power, authority and rights other people do not have. They are not social workers, they are law enforcement.

    Yes, and…

    It’s worse than that. In these cases, the rights of due process and “innocent until proven guilty” cease to exist. Your children can be taken from you, and you have to prove to the state that you are worthy of getting them back.

    And yet some people – even on the Free Range Kids site – seem to think that it’s no big deal to send someone with these powers over to your house because they disagree with your parenting choices.

  60. Dirge August 1, 2014 at 8:42 am #

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Every hospital should have a officer in the delivery room citing parents for child endangerment as soon as the child is born. By creating a person, you are putting them in potential danger.

  61. E August 1, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    @Andy and AB…ok, I give up. You are picking nits. There is the valid concept that there might be people/children/someone in need of assistance. It could range from getting a ride home (like the example about the 2 young girls who DID disobey and ended up in a place they didn’t have permission) or waiting with a kid to make sure a parent picks them up or checking on the upset child (in hineata’s case) or simply responding to a citizen’s report (because they can’t just ignore them sight unseen) or escorting an elderly/dementia person home etc etc etc.

    The entire point was that unless society ignores other people entirely in all circumstances, there are LOTS of other options to take other than arrest. Yes, ignoring someone you don’t know completely is one of them. Yes, police not responding to a call is one of them. But perhaps, the police (or anyone) can actually help in some cases. If the Mom is saying she can’t afford childcare there’s an implication that she would if she could so perhaps police *should* refer her to a program director. Hell, even the news story that covered it mentioned assistance programs at the end of the story.

    In personal experience, I have a friend with elderly parents. They don’t live in the same state. One recently had a fall and it became obvious it was time to get prepared for when they need assistance. Another friend helped them navigate some Vet benefits that they could have already been receiving. So the Vet and his wife didn’t know, their son didn’t know, but someone else HELPED them find assistance.

    But sure, we could all butt out entirely all the time.

  62. Beth August 1, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    Pretending for the moment that every registered sex offender is a threat to children, does it make ANY sense that they are roaming free while children are supposed to be kept in the house or under eagle-eye supervision every second (ie. not roaming even a little bit free)?

  63. E August 1, 2014 at 9:18 am #

    @beth – nope it doesn’t…it’s so ridiculous it’s hard to even comprehend. I mean, it really is outrageous.

  64. Dirk August 1, 2014 at 9:19 am #

    Anonymous mom. The SOR is not increasingly filled with statutory rape cases. It isn’t.

    AM, you sais “The sex offender registry was not designed to be a list of guys who, when they were in their late teens and 20s, would have had sex with your teenager daughter if she’d been willing and eager to do so, and yet that’s increasingly what it’s become.”

    That is not at all true.

    Statutory rape convictions make up less than 20% of all sexual assault convictions.

    84% of all rape victims reported the use of physical force.

    About 50% of victims of statutory rape are aged 14 or 15, with relatively equal proportions of 14 and 15 year olds.

    Less than 1% of statutory rape convictions are against individuals ages 17 or younger.

    The average age of a statutory rape defendant is almost 30.

    One-third of defendants were older than 30 and at least twice the age of their victims.

    Statutory rape convictions do not exceed more than 20 percent of convicts listed on the SOR.

  65. Donna August 1, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    E –

    I don’t think anyone is saying nobody should help and we should all ignore each other. In fact, we are saying the opposite – that WE should help each other rather than rat each other out to the police while we walk away.

    The police have no place in this. For starters, the police are considered authority figures and people have a hard time understanding that they can refuse the aid offered by the police, particularly people of lower socio-economic stature. For example, if I suggest to the McDs mother some cheap childcare options, she likely won’t feel compelled to use them as I have no ability to do anything to her, but if the cop suggests it, she is far more likely to think that she has to go.

    But most importantly, Americans seem to have a drastically wrong view of the criminal justice system. The entire point of the criminal justice system is to PUNISH CRIMINALS.

  66. Donna August 1, 2014 at 9:33 am #

    cut off before I finished …

    The criminal justice system is not intended to fix your life or solve your problems. Police are part of the criminal justice system. Their job is to investigate crimes and enforce the laws. That is it. They are not social workers. They are not tasked with fixing your personal problems. They are not there to do what is best for you. The police should not be used for those things or involved in any non-criminal activity.

  67. E August 1, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    @Donna – I agree with you. But as someone noted you’re never going to eliminate people reaching out to police, therefore you are never going to eliminate the police at least checking on a situation in some cases. When that happens, there should be reasonable responses from them. Giving parents “the benefit of the doubt” as Lenore said…and offering resources (not police action) IF that seems logical.

    BTW, the abc news story has a little more about this case. It doesn’t change my opinion on the situation at all, but fwiw…

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/mom-arrested-letting-son-park-24777001

    Nicole Gainey’s son was en route Saturday to a park about a half-mile from his home when he stopped and sat at a nearby pool, according to an arrest affidavit. Lifeguards said they had seen the boy five previous times and one approached him to ask where his mother was.

    Apparently spooked by the questioning, the boy fled, running across a six-lane road toward the park, where an officer found him and asked if he was allowed out alone often.

    Again, no laws broken, no need to arrest/charge mom. But maybe the lifeguards were going to try to reach out to Mom.

  68. Warren August 1, 2014 at 10:33 am #

    E
    It doesn’t matter if the lifeguards saw him everyday, they have no reason to reach out to the mother. And lifeguards wear uniforms, which could very easily spook a kid into thinking he is in crap.
    Look at the uniformed cop, got the kid in crap for playing in the park.
    There is nothing anyone can say that justifies any intervention for a kid playing in a park.

  69. E August 1, 2014 at 10:47 am #

    First off, Lifeguards wear bathing suits..a whistle..maybe a T shirt that says Lifeguard. They don’t wear anything remotely similar to a police or security guard uniform.

    If a 7 year old does not recognize who a lifeguard is, then they surely should not be at a pool alone.

    I completely understand that a 7 yo might run away from someone asking questions…especially if he wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

    I’m not going to justify the police actions, I’m merely pointing out that there may have been a reason/concern about the kid at the pool. Perhaps they don’t allow 7 year old’s unattended..maybe they thought it was unusual for a kid to come to the pool without a suit or go swimming.

    The Huff Post article says “strangers from the pool” called police and maybe that was due to the kids reactions and running across a busy road…who knows.

    Face it…perhaps everyone’s line is different, but I don’t think anyone can say w/o question that there is never a scenario that wouldn’t move them to call 911. Perhaps the people that called have an extremely low bar, but that point is that the cops are going to show up sometimes. What happens next is most important.

  70. Andy August 1, 2014 at 11:02 am #

    @E Yes, the concept of cop doing something else then arrest is valid. The idea that cop has to make arrest for every little transgression is weird to me, arrests should be reserved for situation when there is a risk of suspect fleeing or him committing further crimes. The idea that mom had pay $4000 to get out of jail even through she is essentially zero fleeing risk rubs me wrong.

    The concept of citizen to citizen help is also great, but Maggies example was not that case. And that is not a nit-pick, there are huge difference between what I think that cops should do and what you think is proper action for them.

    A cop telling mom “your child is playing too long in park” is not citizen to citizen help. It is law enforcement agent telling you what to do. Imagine a cop checking the kid in a park (if that) and then leaving with no action. That is proper law enforcement response to that situation.

    Your examples do not help much there. I do not know how it is in USA, but all playparks call parents when misbehaving kids go where they should not go or get lost. No cops are involved. The rest is just nice people checking on other peoples kids/relatives. You stayed there cause you so the kid is not alone and the probably enjoyed your company. If you would have called cops on those late parents, I would have an issue with that. The kid would be slightly less comfortable which is not a reason enough to call them.

    There is fine line between citizen to citizen help and being annoying busybody. Police is probably worst agency to start to play around that line and risk crossing. They are body trained and organized to enforce order, essentially by force.

  71. Warren August 1, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    E
    first off he was not at the pool. He stopped by the pool.
    Lifeguards most certainly have uniforms, especially when off deck. Been there done that.
    Also since when has stopping on your way somewhere been cause for concern?
    By your standards every kid out and about should be stopped and questioned.
    In this case there was no reasonable cues for anyone to intervene. The only risk posed was from the idiots that intervened. Their actions are the ones that should be called up for judgment, not the mother.

  72. Andy August 1, 2014 at 11:11 am #

    @E All that segment proves is that the boy was not going there for the first time. Mom decided that boy is mature enough to go alone to playground, so she is likely to allow him to go multiple times.

    And I’m not sure why Lifeguard written on t-shirt should fill the boy with trust and compel him to answer all the questions. Or is relevant to anything. That was a stranger in stranger danger country and it is quite possible boy already listened to quite a few lectures about not talking to them.

    Running through six-lane was not smartest thing to do through. Running away when the kid feels suspicious is smart action to do when you are seven years old.

  73. anonymous mom August 1, 2014 at 11:17 am #

    @Dirk, I see you are at cutting and pasting again.

    Of COURSE most stat rape victims are 14 and 15. 16 is the age of consent in most states. And, sex with those 13 and under (or in some places, under 13) are not considered statutory. Nobody who molests a 10 year old is going to get a statutory charge. Statutory offenses tend only to apply to post-pubescent teens under the age of consent, which in most states only applies to 14 and 15 year olds.

    And, of course most of those convicted are not under 17.

    The 50% of rapes that involve force is talking about ALL rapes. If a rape involves force, it is no longer statutory rape; it’s forcible rape. You get that, right? If somebody holds down a 15 year old and forces her to have sex, they have committed a violent, forcible rape and will be charged as such; they will not be charged with stat rape. Statutory sex crimes are sex acts that are ONLY criminal because of the age of the person involved. If the girl was, in many cases, less than a year older, the sex would be perfectly legal. But violent or forcible rapes against teens under the age of consent are NOT prosecuted as statutory offenses.

    Now, many if not most states no longer charge anybody with “statutory rape.” Stat rape gets charged in other ways, often as a CSC charge. So it’s extremely hard to tell whether a crime is statutory or not, simply by looking at the charge, because the only difference is level (is it 1st degree CSC or 3rd degree CSC? And both of those can encompass tons of offenses, so even then you have no idea what it means).

    But, if 20% of those on the registry are on for stat convictions (and I have no doubt it’s higher than that in many states), that’s far too many. And, it doesn’t change the fact that less than 15% of those on the registry are on for an offense against a child 13 or under, a violent offense against anybody, or a repeat offense. The rest are statutory or victimless (often internet-based). If you are okay with that, that’s fine, but it makes you out of step with the entire rest of the world, and kind of a fascist.

  74. anonymous mom August 1, 2014 at 11:21 am #

    Oh, and Dirk, you realize how averages work, right? If 30 is the average age of somebody with a stat conviction, then obviously many of those convicted are, as I said, in their late teens or 20s. Because, you’d only need a relatively few people in their 50s or 60s convicted of statutory offenses to bring the average way up. There’s only about 12 years before they are 30 that a person can be convicted of a statutory offense; there are about 50 years after that that they can be. So your own number indicates that those convicted of statutory offenses are very disproportionately 18-29. If you think a guy in his late teens or twenties who makes a mistake with a willing teen less than a year under the age of consent deserves to be labelled as a public danger his entire life, well, again, that’s kind of fascist, and I’m guessing you wouldn’t have to look too far back in your own family tree to find a good number of dangerous predators by that definition.

  75. Lance Mitaro August 1, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    What this cop did was akin to saying “don’t stand under a tree, you might get struck by lightning.” Makes about as much sense.

    Where is our war on the weather?

    This country has lost it’s collective minds when it comes to anticipatory things that can happen to child. Guess what? The leading cause of death is birth. The only way to prevent the inevitable, is not to be born.

  76. anonymous mom August 1, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    @Donna, I’d go further and say Americans are not simply wrong to think the police are there to fix their personal problems, but also in too many cases would like to see behavior they find unacceptable treated as seriously criminal, even if there is no reason related to public safety to do so. That’s what happens, I think, when you become such a punitive society. Harshly punishing things that many other societies, today and historically, would not have considered a serious crime or even a crime at all becomes the norm. Even many self-professed liberals I know seem to think that the best way to effect the changes they want to see is to throw people who violate their norms/values into prison for as long as possible. It’s disgusting, but there’s not much about U.S. society I don’t find disgusting.

  77. anonymous mom August 1, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Assessment of risk is also a problem here. We are so brainwashed by the media to think that we are in danger from strangers. We aren’t. I know too many intelligent women who say–often with some kind of feminist pride, as if irrational fear is a virtue–that they are absolutely terrified if they have to get into an elevator that has a man on it. He might rape them, after all. They are awash with panic every time a man they don’t know asks they how they are on the bus, because he is, after all, Schrodinger’s Rapist and there’s as good a chance as not that he will try to rape them. It’s lunacy.

    And it’s absolute lunacy given what we know about actual violence against women, which is much, much more often perpetrated by intimate partners. A woman who is really afraid of being raped or assaulted should be far more afraid when she’s alone with her boyfriend or husband or trusted friend than when she’s in an elevator with a guy she doesn’t know.

    Same with kids and sexual abuse. Children are far, far more likely to be sexually abused by somebody they know. I don’t know a single person who was grabbed by a stranger while at a park and sexually assaulted. (I do know some people who witnessed indecent exposure in public places, but while that’s unpleasant, it’s not going to be damaging in the same way that an assault on your body would be.) If the police are really concerned about a parent putting a child in a risky situation, they should intervene every time a child is left with a babysitter, cared for by older siblings or cousins, or being tended by a step-parent. Those situations are much more likely to result in sexual abuse than going to the park.

  78. Warren August 1, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    E
    If this same kid stopped to look in a store window each trip, is that a cause for concern or just him checking out the stuff on display?
    Because in the summer I don’t know any kid that wouldn’t stop and check out the action in a pool.

  79. E August 1, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    @Andy, if you are at a pool and do not understand the role Lifeguards play (respond to their whistle, clear the pool if instructed, get out of the swim lane, etc) then you should not be at the pool without supervision. One would think that if you trust your 7 year old at the pool, one of the first rules would be to follow the rules and obey the lifeguards right?

    And I’m getting confused by the “stranger danger” thinking. If this kid is being trusted to walk to the park at age 7, then that is a FR mentality. Suggesting that this kid “ran away from the lifeguard” is because he’s filled with stranger danger fear, then it is the opposite of FR. So which is it?

    If the kids was supposed to be at the park and wasn’t, I completely get why he might have been “oh crap they are gonna call my mom”. And I completely get that the police overstepped. And I am completely baffled at the introduction of “sex offenders lurking” as any sort of justification.

  80. E August 1, 2014 at 11:54 am #

    @Warren, if the store says “no children under 8 unaccompanied”, I would imagine that someone would eventually speak to them. I really have no idea.

    I can’t tell if the kid was at the pool or just looking in at the pool from the conflicting stories, but it’s no crime for a lifeguard to chat with a kid either. We don’t know how long he’d been there or what he was doing. Lifeguards are usually HS and college kids, I don’t think their motivations are nefarious and nosy in general — at least that’s not my experience as one and as the parent of 2.

    It sounds like his actions after that (running away and crossing the 6 lane street) concerned someone to call the police.

    Again…..I’m not agreeing with what happened, I’m just being realistic that sometimes it’s GOING to happen and the police don’t need to overreach when it does.

  81. Andy August 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    @E The boy was playing in the pool or in the play area? I read that he was stopped by the pool which I read as nearby. Swimming lanes are totally irrelevant if you are NOT IN the pool. There is no difference between lifeguard and random store seller in that situation. Just some employee of a business you are not involved with (or supposed to be involved with *if* the boy actually entered pool area).

    “And I’m getting confused by the “stranger danger” thinking. If this kid is being trusted to walk to the park at age 7, then that is a FR mentality. Suggesting that this kid “ran away from the lifeguard” is because he’s filled with stranger danger fear, then it is the opposite of FR. So which is it?”

    Yep, many 7 years old can be trusted to play at the park. Yep, the same 7 years old being questioned by stranger may decide he knows nothing about that man, got afraid and run away. I do not think that 7 years old must be fearless in all situations and encounters to be allowed out alone.

    Plus, when I say “trusted to play at the park” that actually includes “trusted to run away in suspicious situation”.

  82. Warren August 1, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

    E
    You are no different than Dirk, trying to justify something that cannot be justified.
    Bothering a 7 yr old for being out and about, for being out and about is just wrong. It is that simple. To think otherwise is buying into the paranoia.

  83. E August 1, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Applying this to our neighborhood and pool….I can 100% see someone calling police if a kid ran away from the pool and across the 4 lane street + turn lanes(the neighborhood backs up to the pool, but there is a busy street adjacent to the pool). The intersection has 2 crosswalks with lights (but not 4), but they are fairly new and even as an adult, I do not enjoy crossing on foot.

    I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying it wouldn’t surprise me in the least for someone to call if the kid ran away and crossed it. It would be highly highly unusual to see a kid that age alone at this intersection.

    I don’t care if the kid was disobeying the agreed upon plan with Mom: she didn’t need to be charged. I don’t care if the kid darted out in traffic and someone observed a car having to avoid the kid: she didn’t need to be charged.

    I’m just saying, stuff is gonna happen, police are going to get called…what happens next is the important part.

  84. E August 1, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

    Ok Warren. Every 7 year old knows what they are doing all the time. No one should ever concern themselves with anyone outside their family. I get it.

  85. E August 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    @Andy – I’ve read it both ways…at the pool and outside the pool. I guess I’ll just disagree with a kid being afraid of a lifeguard….to me that indicates he either knew he was in the wrong place (completely understandable reaction) or he is not old enough to recognize that a lifeguard can be trusted and isn’t a dangerous stranger.

    But people never seem to get my point…you will NEVER EVER prevent people from calling authorities. It’s not going to happen. So how about some reasonable means of evaluating situations and moving beyond them.

  86. Andy August 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    @E I stated what is reasonable reaction of law enforcement in this case: no action, optionally telling the kid that run through busy road is bad idea (if that road is busy).

    I do not see how is lifeguard you have nothing to do with is different from store clerk, bus driver or any other man or teenager (if the lifeguard is high school student). It is not like all high school students (or adults) would always treat seven years old gently with care and respect. He does not have to bee afraid of being molested, he might have been afraid of being yelled at or treated in other unpleasant way.

  87. Omer Golan-Joel August 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

    If you’re so worried about sex offenders, punish convicted sex offenders, not innocent children and their parents. If it is so dangerous outside, why isn’t the police force brought to account? People pay taxes for them to keep neighborhoods safe, not to be forced to lock themselves at home in fear.

    Or are these all false fears we are subjected to by a regime which wants us all to be fearful?

  88. Donna August 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    @anon mom – I agree totally. The US is a highly punitive society. We seem to take great happiness is prosecuting people. I was astounded when I read an article about the plane that hit two people when it crashed onto the beach earlier this week and the vast majority of those commenting insisted that the pilot needed to be prosecuted for manslaughter or murder. And did so without knowing any more facts that a man died (girl was not yet dead) after being hit by a plane attempting an emergency landing.

    E – I understand that we can’t stop people from calling the cops. That does not necessitate the cops start handing out social work advice. They are not trained for that. They are not paid for that. We, as a society, should not want them to do that. If someone calls a cop for something stupid like a kid playing in the park, the cops only response should be to walk away once they ascertain that everything is fine. If they are going to lecture anyone, it should be the person who called in for wasting their time.

  89. E August 1, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    Ok Andy — I guess you’ve come across some scary lifeguards in your time. That’s just not been my experience. They are employed and on the job (not killing time at a mall foodcourt). My suggestion is that a 7 yo left on his own should know the difference. And if his reaction is “oh, I might get in trouble” I’m not at ALL surprised he ran either even if he wasn’t in any danger (you are the one that brought up stranger danger). Thus I’m not at all surprise that *someone* observed him run across the busy street and called the police.

    I get that YOU wouldn’t choose to talk to him and YOU wouldn’t call police if he ran away and across a busy street, but it’s not terribly shocking that *someone* would.

    We agree on everything else.

  90. Donna August 1, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    E – However, I do disagree that there is no way to turn the tide on people calling authorities for stupid reasons. Of course, there will always be crazy people who do this that you can’t stop, but if the police stopped overreacting to everything, society would largely stop overreacting to everything by calling the police.

  91. Andy August 1, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

    @E Should know the difference between lifeguard and who? Being employed does not make you nicer person and killing time at a mall foodcourt does not make you bad one. Whether a kid get scared off an older stronger person depends on tone of voice, exact wording of a question, body posture, kids shyness/fearlessness and other similar things, at least should.

    I do not remember interacting with lifeguards as a kid, but as an adult I met some unpleasant one. Just as I met unpleasant store employee, unpleasant teacher and unpleasant random stranger.

    Other then that, I agree with Donna. Whenever the police steps into parenting non-issues, police is encouraging these request. Overreacting people think the subsequent police reaction validated their opinions.

  92. E August 1, 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    @Andy – my point that there is a difference between teens hanging out at a food court (group of kids hanging out on their free time) and a lifeguard (1 person at their employer – in the setting where they actually do play a role that might include engaging a kid).

    But this is pointless, the reason I brought it up is not because you said “maybe the lifeguard was being mean to him”, I brought it up because you used the words “stranger danger”. If a lifeguard is simply speaking to a kid, there is no reason they should be afraid. If they don’t understand that (while they are at a pool), it’s possible they shouldn’t be hanging around a pool alone.

    But yes, Donna summed it up perfectly.

  93. Andy August 1, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    @E I do not understand why are you so sure the boy was in the pool area and not just on the nearby street. Is there a free access to that pool for anyone or do you assume that kid climbed the fence?

    Plus, there is “go away from swimming lane” kind of talk, there is “it is a nice weather today” kind of talk and there is “Stay, what are doing in here? Where are your parents?” kind of talk.

    They are not the same “simply speaking with guard” and normal kid expected reactions are different. You do not have to be super mean person in order for the kid to decide he do not need to have any of that. The kid does not have to do anything wrong in order to conclude the lifeguard *thinks* he should not be there and run away before trouble.

  94. Donna August 1, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    My guess is that the kid ran away from the lifeguard because he was afraid he was going to get in trouble for being at the pool by the lifeguard. It sounds to me like the kid just stopped by the pool to watch on his way to the park, not that he was swimming. I can’t imagine that a mother who allows her kid to go by himself to a park actually does so with an edict that he not stop to look at anything along the way, so why would the mother care that he stopped to watch people swim? But, based on the demeanor or the questioning or just being 7, he may have believed that the lifeguard was mad that he was at the pool.

    Which begs the question, why did the lifeguard question him at all? I can see approaching him if he was inside a pay area and hadn’t paid or was inside the actual pool swimming, but otherwise, leave him alone. The lifeguard is no better than a busybody mother at the park who questions a child if the kid was doing nothing wrong.

  95. E August 1, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    I don’t know where he was, there are stories that say was “at the pool” there are stories that say “he was outside the pool” there are stories that say they’d seen him “hanging around the pool 5 times” etc.

    We can on and on….he could have been hanging out in the parking lot (any area “outside” my pool is basically the parking lot) he could have been there for a long time…we don’t know.

    So yeah, they could have frightened him with a mean tone…they could have been nice but concerned about him hanging out in the parking lot with cars, but he was afraid of his Mom finding out and ran.

    None of that matters because you and I don’t know the 7 yo, the facility, the lifeguard, or anything else.

    We know the kid had the Mom’s permission, we know he had a cell phone, we know he ended up at the park. We know the police charged her. That’s it.

    It’s at that point that the police had control of the situation (regardless if it was a legit call or not) and made the situation a legal one. THAT is what we do know.

  96. E August 1, 2014 at 2:30 pm #

    @Donna – that’s the question isn’t it. Why DID the lifeguard ask him questions. We can PRESUME s/he’s a busy body or we can maybe give that kid as much grace as we are the 7 yo and presume they weren’t being a nosy jackass.

    Or we can presume the kid was lying to his Mom about where he was going and wasn’t going tot he park…and we can presume that the lifeguard was a real jerk. It goes both way doesn’t it??

    I mean, it’s stupid to pick and choose who is the good guy and bad guy.

  97. Donna August 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm #

    “at the pool” there are stories that say “he was outside the pool” there are stories that say they’d seen him “hanging around the pool 5 times”

    I don’t see where there is any difference in any of those statements. I think that the articles are pretty clear that he wasn’t IN the pool – meaning inside the water. He was in the vicinity of the pool. And he sat, so probably not in the parking lot.

    Unless he was inside a pay area unpaid, there is no reason for the lifeguard to question him at all. I don’t care if he stopped there every day on his way to the park or stayed watching for awhile. I could see maybe trying to start a conversation with him, but not an interrogation.

  98. Andy August 1, 2014 at 2:48 pm #

    @E If I would give my kid permission to go to park, I would not see a big deal with him to stop for a while and look at something on the way there. I would not even see a problem with the kid not going the shortest path possible, if his preferred path is equally safe. Detour is fine by me as long as it is still reasonably long.

    I would see a problem with kid entering the pool area itself and I would see a problem with kid going someplace else entirely.

    Yes, his moms rules might have been different. However, I would say they are just another thing we do not know. There is no reason to assume the kid was afraid of mom being angry with him.

  99. E August 1, 2014 at 2:49 pm #

    Ok. I’m sure we know everything there is to know to draw those conclusions. The lifeguard probably was a nosy jerk. Let’s blame them.

  100. Donna August 1, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    E –

    No, I think the facts as given pretty clearly lean toward the lifeguard being a busybody.

    There is no indication that the boy was doing anything improper at the pool. Seems like a pretty important piece of the puzzle to bring up if true. Even if he was there without a parent’s permission, that is a parenting issue, not a lifeguard issue. I don’t expect lifeguards to inquire as to whether my child is where she is supposed to be if she is just sitting there watching people swim.

    The only reason that I could see to interrogate the boy would be if he were inside a pay area unpaid. That is possible here, but I question how likely it is since it seems it would have come up earlier – one of the other times he’s done this.

  101. E August 1, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    That last post was in response to Donna.

    @Andy, This ongoing discussion is dumb because it only points out that people are going to look at the same situation and draw different conclusions (we’re doing it here and we weren’t even there). And when they do, I’d like to think that the law would not respond with “there are sex offenders in the area” as a reason to charge the Mom.

    For the umpteenth time…that’s my point.

  102. E August 1, 2014 at 2:54 pm #

    Ok Donna – that lifeguard was a busy body.

  103. Melinda Tripp August 1, 2014 at 3:22 pm #

    I agree with J on almost everything, again I pro pose, that ever parent lay out a safety plan, what they should say or do in any unsafe or uncomfortable situation, I feel so strongly I wrote the book on the subject,
    Parents need to empower their children, they have somehow forgotten that , that is the greatest protection of all.
    Teach them to be safe kids, teens and eventually adults, and then , please let them grow up,
    Let them have the freedom, they deserve.
    First the parents need to understand this old principle.
    They need to be able to handle situations and bad behavior from the playground to the grave.
    Give them the tools, then let them use them.

  104. Warren August 1, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    E
    I will bet you paychecks that the lifeguards were investigating at the request of nosey busy body’s.

  105. E August 1, 2014 at 6:50 pm #

    @warren, I won’t disagree with that. It could have been the pool mgr or a pool patron , absolutely.

  106. Shari August 2, 2014 at 9:48 am #

    If we send the kids out in droves, there will be droves of parents in jail mingling with sex offenders. Meanwhile, the children will be removed and given to strangers with whom they should never talk, and some of whom might be those we wanted to protect them from in the first place.

    You call this a system?

  107. Wendy Barnes August 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm #

    So if you let your kid go play all morning out in the neighborhood, and they come back home for lunch, I could be arrested? But if I’m with my kid at a mall or large shopping center and I get distracted and my kid is abducted, I’m prayed for, people search, friends bring food. This PD is saying if your child is kidnapped we are on it; if they are just outside without me, that is a felony. Wow!

  108. JKP August 3, 2014 at 2:25 pm #

    anon mom – I couldn’t let the phrase “Schrodinger’s Rapist” go without comment. I’m totally stealing it. I’ve never heard a better phrase to describe current society’s irrational male phobia.

  109. Jen (P.) August 4, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Sending kids out in droves is a great idea for a reason besides annoying the busybodies (not that that isn’t a good reason, of course). Part of the problem we have is that seeing a young kid on his own is like a unicorn sighting these days. And the relative rarity of that event encourages people to see it as a sign of trouble. I would hope that increasing the number of kids out in public on their own would help disabuse people of the notion that a kid without an adult within arm’s reach is per se in need of either help or punishment.