Midlands law enforcement: time to talk 'stranger danger' with your kids is now

Midlands law enforcement: time to talk 'stranger danger' with your kids is now

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It can happen in the blink of an eye. Thursday afternoon, outside Baskin Robbins in Forest Acres, Richland County deputies demonstrated that.

An undercover Richland County school resource officer, Pearl Whitaker, tried to lure two-and-a-half-year-old Finn as another uninformed deputy distracted Finn's grandma.

In the test, Finn passed with flying colors. He pulled away from the undercover deputy, who was taunting him with a bag full of treats and a promise to jump in a nearby bouncy house – away from his grandma. Finn, instead, latched onto his grandmother's leg and alerted her of Whitaker's attempts.

Whitaker, a veteran school resource officer, knows many other children would have taken her up on her offer.

"Anybody that deals with children should always talk to always talk to their children and inform their children about taking things from strangers, going up to strangers," she said.

She said it's important to talk your children through scenarios like that one, especially after Wednesday's shocking news. Irmo police say two separate 11-year-old boys escaped two separate kidnapping attempts in just the past several days.

Stine Poole, a mother of several, had never talked to her children about stranger danger – until last night.

"I made sure that knew not to go near a stranger. Period," she said. "Don't come looking for the puppy. Don't get the candy etc."

Lieutenant Curtis Wilson with Richland County said it's important for those discussions to happen and to continue.

"Just think about it," he said. "If you go on the missing persons' page and see all of the different names and ages of kids who have been abducted, this is something that's going on. That's why it's a great thing to be talking about because it brings it top of mind."

Meanwhile, in Irmo, the patrols haven't stopped as officers search for the suspect who they believe is responsible for the attempted kidnappings. Thursday afternoon, officers released two composite sketches, which SLED drew with the help of the young victims.

They've been working some other decent leads and encourage anyone who knows anything to call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.

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