In 2000, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office implemented the Child Lures Prevention
program under the guidance of founder Ken Wooden. Mr. Wooden is a former educator
and journalist who has interviewed convicted sexual predators to gather information
on their strategies used to lure unsuspecting victims. Since that time, we have
presented the Child Lures program to thousands of adults and children throughout
The Sheriff's Office is committed to continuing Child Lures Prevention in an attempt
to keep our children as safe as possible. Unfortunately, we are not immune from
crime, and the horrific kidnapping and murder of 11 -year-old Carlie Brucia of Sarasota
brought the need for child safety back to the forefront. It is not realistic to
think we can be with our children all of the time, but we can take steps to educate
ourselves on how to be better protected against potentially harmful situations.
We hope you will accept this Child Lures Parent's Guide as a valuable resource against
child abuse. In addition, we hope you will review the material with your children
to ensure they have the necessary guidance to avoid being the victim of a crime.
However, if you do become a victim, do not hesitate to call law enforcement to report
Thank you for participating in Child Lures Prevention. The Sheriff's Office staff
stands ready and willing to provide quality law enforcement services to the citizens
of Manatee County. If you have a need for our services, you may contact us at phone
Most children are abused by someone they know and trust. Exploitation often begins with innocent behavior that escalates into abuse. Children who are starved for attention are especially vulnerable.
Pedophiles are experts at taking advantage of normal tensions between teenagers and parents. Youngsters who lack adequate supervision or face issues at home like divorce, substance abuse or neglect are preferred targets.
Establish a basic understanding of private parts, the parts of the body covered by a bathing suit. Instill a strong sense of body ownership and privacy. Stress that it is against the law for any adult, including a family member, scout leader, teacher, neighbor, clergy, etc. to touch a child in "the Bathing Suit Zone." Assure children that they have the right to say "NO!" to anyone who tries. Exceptions: Doctor's visit with a parent or guardian present, injury to the privates, bath time for young children.
Define the difference between Real Love (being tucked into bed at night by Mom, a big hug from Grandpa) and Fake Love (an adult touching a child in "the Bathing Suit Zone.") It is important to use the terms Real Love and Fake Love rather than good touch and bad touch, since a "bad touch" may actually feel good.
Parents, especially single Moms, question the motives of adults (particularly males) who take extreme interest in your child. Rely heavily on parental instincts. Monitor and participate in after-school, youth group, summer camp and church activities, especially those involving overnight stays. Let your children know they can tell you anything - and you will believe them. Stress that there should be no secrets from you, particularly those involving an adult.
The Assistance Lure appeals to the helpful nature of children and is chillingly effective. Perpetrators often ask for directions or for help carrying packages to a vehicle or into a building. Some pretend to be disabled and in need of a helping hand. They may even sport a brace, sling or fake cast.
Predators may also offer assistance to the unsuspecting -and insist on providing it. Of all the lures, this Lure is the most dangerous threat to human life.
Inform children that, generally speaking, adults should ask other adults for help. Give your kids permission to ignore requests for assistance or offers of uninvited help. The best defense against this lure is pretending not to hear, then quickly leaving the area.
If someone in a vehicle slows down, pulls over or attempts to speak with them, youngsters should take three giant steps back from the car - and walk quickly and purposefully in the opposite direction.
Rightly so, children are taught to respect and obey adults. Pedophiles take advantage of their positions of authority as coach, clergy, scout leader, relative, etc. to intimidate or force youngsters into abuse or worse.
Some predators go so far as to pose as detectives, police or truant officers. They may use badges and uniforms or attach flashing lights to a vehicle to appear real. Youngsters, especially teenagers, are intimidated when accused of shoplifting or other crimes.
Give children permission to say "No" to authority figures when necessary. Stress that it is illegal for any adult, even a family member, police officer or clergy member, to touch a child in the Bathing Suit Zone.
If confronted by someone claiming to be with law enforcement, youngsters should insist on a uniformed police officer in a marked car. Warn children to be extra cautious if they are accused of a crime but have done nothing wrong. Youngsters should never leave a public area against their better judgment.
The age-old lure of bribery still works. Young children are offered candy and toys; older children are tempted with sports equipment, compact discs, alcohol and drugs, or - most effective of all - money. Bribes are used to persuade children to go willingly with a potential abductor or as a reward for tolerating abuse or keeping it secret.
Explain that a good secret (like a surprise party) is one that is eventually told. A bad secret is one that makes you feel upset or that you are afraid to tell Bad secrets should be told to parents immediately.
Teach children that what seems like a gift may be a bribe to lure them into danger. A sincere gift has no strings attached and should not be kept secret. Parents, be alert to unexplained gifts. Find out who gave these items: when, where and why? Remind children that no amount of money or gifts is worth risking their personal safety.
Computer Online Lure
Over 25 million American kids are now online. While the Internet abounds with wonderful learning and communication opportunities, it also provides criminals with unlimited possibilities. Pedophiles visit Internet chat rooms and websites in search of lonely, rebellious, trusting or adventurous youngsters.
Given the anonymous nature of chat rooms and e-mail, predators can pretend to be any age or gender. This makes is easier to obtain information like a child's real name, where they live/work, what school they attend, even personal details about their family. Usually, the ultimate objective is to arrange a face-to-face meeting.
The Internet Predator may expose youngsters to messages or images with adult content, but he becomes a true threat if he succeeds in learning a child's name, address or other personal information or he manages to arrange a private, in-person meeting with the youngster. Kids who have agreed to such meetings have been robbed, beaten, raped - and worse.
Remind your children that things are not always what they seem on the "Net." Discuss current news stories concerning Internet crime with your child to reinforce that precautions must be taken while online.
Familiarize yourself with the Internet and e-mail. Supervise youngsters online, much as you censor what they watch on television, video or DVD. If your child's friends have Internet/e-mail access at home, encourage their parents to supervise online time as well.
Situate computers in high visibility areas of your home - the kitchen or family room - and view the screen at regular intervals. Be alert to the use of Secretive Internet Acronyms.
Software exists to restrict children's access to inappropriate areas of the Internet, but don't underestimate your child's ability to bypass these controls! Kids of all ages pride themselves on getting around them.
Drugs, especially alcohol, can be used to incapacitate, seduce or lure youngsters into abuse. Young children are tricked into intoxication; older children may willingly experiment with alcohol and other drugs.
Children under the influence of drugs or alcohol are at much greater risk of abuse and other violent crimes, at the hands of an adult or even one of their peers. This is yet another strong incentive for youngsters to steer clear of drugs and alcohol.
Stress that keeping a clear head at all times is critical to person safety. Explain that predators often encourage youngsters to drink alcohol and take drugs, lessening their inhibitions or leaving them unable to defend themselves.
Make it clear that you expect your child to never try drugs. Help your child practice standing up to peer pressure. Urge your child to come to you if and when the pressure becomes too much so that you may find solutions together.
Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities. Children with many interests are less likely to experiment with drugs. Stress the natural highs in life and the true "high" that comes from making the most of one's potential. Explain how drugs diminish that potential.
Establish strong family values as early as preschool years. Convey the ethnic pride and moral and religious beliefs of your family and its ancestors. Reinforce them. Set aside time for discussions with your child. Topics may include:
The art and discipline of saying "NO!"
Real friends vs. destructive peers
Natural highs vs. artificial highs
How drugs rob people of health, careers, lives
How drugs support organized crime & violent gangs
Avoid lecturing to your children. Discuss and listen.
Praise your child daily.
Give praise for kind deeds, good grades, helping out around the house, scoring in a game or standing up to peer pressure to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or try drugs. Nurture your child's natural talents and encourage involvement in sports, art, volunteer work, music, etc. Get involved yourself!
Trust Your Instincts.
If you think that your child is using drugs, act immediately and firmly. Declare that drugs and drug use will not be tolerated in your home.
Be firm but loving. Seek help from teachers, counselors, clergy, family members, local police and other available community resources.
Network with other parents.
Exchange information and concerns about your children. Hold meetings and invite youngsters to participate. Let them know that because you care, self-destructive behavior will not be allowed. Prod disinterested parents to get involved; don't allow them to remain indifferent.
Ego & Fame Lure
Compliments or offers of fame and fortune are sometimes used to lure youngsters into abuse or abduction. Youngsters, particularly middle school students, can be attracted by the promise of a modeling job, the chance to star in a commercial, or a spot in a talent or beauty contest. Students may also be enticed by fake offers of athletic scholarships or sport contracts.
Youngsters are offered an immediate audition or private tryout and told to keep it a secret from parents. Phony auditions are held in hotel rooms or other non-public places that put youngsters at risk of assault or worse. Photo and filming sessions often begin harmlessly, then escalate into exploitation and even pornography.
Warn youngsters that appeals to the ego may quickly cloud judgment. Stress that for safety's sake, parents or guardians must chaperone all talent pursuits. Explain that by law, a parent has to co-sign legal contracts for kids under 18. Parents, credentials of talent scouts should be thoroughly verified prior to any audition or photo session.
By their very nature, emergencies require quick responses. By faking a crisis, predators trick youngsters into going with them willingly. Children may be approached at home or on the street, by someone they know well, slightly or not at all. Here are some examples:
" Your mother was in a car accident and has been taken to the hospital! I was sent to take you to her"
" Your house is on fire! Quick, come with me!"
Explain that emergencies will happen; they are a fact of life. However, a child must never go with anyone unless an emergency has first been verified. Children must also never open the door to anyone when home alone.
Prearrange a specific Family Plan of Action in case of emergencies. Who will contact your child if there really is an emergency? Who can your child call? Where can your child go?
Fun & Games Lure
Bath-time or body contact games like tickling, wrestling and Hide-the-Quarter may be used as an opportunity to exploit children. Since physical contact is normal during these activities, children are often unaware that anything out of the ordinary is happening.
Games that include the use of handcuffs, ropes, duct tape or other restraints prevent children from protecting themselves or escaping.
Reassure children that most games involving body contact are perfectly safe and fun to play. However, do reinforce the concept of the Bathing Suit Zone. Explain that inappropriate touching during a game -even by another child - is against the law. Such behavior should be reported to parents or another trusted adult. Children should never allow anyone to handcuff, tie them up or place them in isolation - even during a game.
Hate & Violence Lure
The Lure of Hate & Violence is ageless and its cost to civilization is immeasurable. Bullies from the schoolyard to the world stage have relied on its appeal to gain supporters.
This Lure can be irresistible to impressionable youngsters, particularly those with low self-esteem, a sense of powerlessness, anger issues, or feelings that they don't belong.
In schools across America, the Lure of Hate & Violence results in untold bullying and harassment. Repeated cruel, belittling or sexual comments can have a profound effect on sensitive youngsters, sometimes leaving deep scars. Many kids are so frightened or humiliated by their tormentor that they skip school or flatly refuse to go.
In recent school shootings, some gunmen have cited on-going ridicule by fellow students as contributing to their rampages.
The hostility we increasingly see in young people has roots in many social problems, including neglect, abuse, poverty and mental illness. Such rage feeds on prejudice against those of different races, cultures, religions, sexual orientation or social standings. Oftentimes, it is fueled by drugs, access to guns and/ or the urging of peers. Unchecked and unresolved, such hatred can trigger incredible violence.
Teach children to respect, admire and celebrate the differences in people. Urge them to be understanding of those who are different and to have empathy for those less fortunate.
If your child is labeled a "bully," work with your school to find out why and how to fix it. Seek professional help for troubling or violent behavior or if your child suffers from prolonged depression or withdrawal.
Limit how much violence your child is exposed to via television, video games, movies, literature and music. Point out the physical and emotional pain violence causes victims and their families. Create and practice anger resolution techniques as a family.
Supervise your children. Know their interests and what they do in their free time. If your child surfs the net, what type of sites are being visited? If your child has a webpage or website of their own, what is the content?
If your child displays symbols of intolerance on clothing, jewelry or other belongings, find out why. Keep your ears open. What are your kids and their friends talking about?
If you own guns, lock up firearms and ammunition separately. Consider getting rid of all weapons permanently. Explain the importance of reporting threats of violence, including bomb threats, by schoolmates. Stress that reporting can be done anonymously, but that school officials must be told.
Foster self-esteem. Children who feel good about themselves treat others with kindness. Reach out to kids who don't have positive role models. A few well-placed words of praise can work wonders on a youngster's self-image. Kids learn by example, so be a positive role model.
Youngsters seek and cherish the attention of individuals they admire. Heroes might include favorite teachers, coaches, relatives or local celebrities. Predators exploit their hero status to abuse youngsters.
When a youngster's real-life hero turns abuser, the child might endure repeated abuse in order to maintain the ''friendship'' or keep their hero out of trouble. In isolated cases, young children have been abused by pedophiles dressed as holiday figures or costumed characters.
Review the concepts of "Real Love" & "Fake Love" and the Bathing Suit Zone. Encourage children to tell a trusted adult of any abuse or attempted abuse. Instruct youngsters to never blindly trust or go with someone who resembles or claims to know a celebrity.
The offer of a job or errand may be just a trick to abuse or abduct a youngster. Even college students are attracted by the promise of high paying, interesting or fun jobs. Phony interviews are often scheduled in secluded locations or advertised with only a post office box.
Explain to your child the importance of getting parental permission before agreeing to perform any chore or job, including yard work, light construction, or helping with packages/groceries.
The safest employment is with known and established businesses. Accompany older youngsters on job interviews and obtain details on the employer, location, and hours to be worked. Potential babysitting clients should have references. Use them and check in periodically with your child.
Extra caution should be taken when selling or collecting door-to-door. Youngsters should never enter someone's home unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Name Recognition Lure
Well-meaning parents often mark backpacks, clothing, sports equipment and other belongings with name-tags. This can allow predators to call the child by name, creating a false sense of familiarity and trust.
The Name Recognition Lure is frequently combined with another lure, such as the Emergency Lure. Example: "Mandy, hurry and come with me. Your father was in a bad accident!"
For safety's sake, children should not trust or go with someone simply because the individual knows their name.
Remind youngsters that predators are expert con-artists who make an effort to win over the confidence of children. If name-tags are necessary on belongings, place them where they are not easily seen.
Children love animals and are easily caught off guard by lures involving them. Cute, cuddly pets such as puppies and kittens hold an especially powerful attraction. Children may be asked to help look for a "lost" puppy or offered the chance to see a new litter of kittens - or perhaps something more exotic, like a ferret.
Explain that animals can be used to lure children into dangerous situations. Children should never enter a home, building or car or leave a public area with the promise to see any kind of animal, unless accompanied by a parent or other trusted adult.
If asked to look for a lost pet, your child needs to ignore the request, get to safety quickly and report the incident to parents and police immediately. The Pet Lure has been used in many horrible crimes. Remind children, "There is no lost puppy!"
Playmate & Companion Lure
Some children are led into abuse by a playmate who is encouraged by their abuser to involve other kids. Pedophiles may lure youngsters to their home with a party atmosphere, providing toys, sports equipment, favorite foods, use of a swimming pool, etc. They may promote an "anything goes" attitude that can be very attractive to adolescents.
Keep in mind also that roughly 20% of all sexual abuse is now committed by children against other children.
Get to know your youngster's friends and their families. A sudden strong dislike of a favorite place or person may indicate that some form of abuse has taken place. Conversely, if your child constantly spends time at one friend's house, particularly where there is a single male or live-in boyfriend, find out why. Visit unannounced. If you feel at all uneasy, declare that home off limits.
If young children start acting out sexually, find out how, where and with whom this behavior was learned.
Pedophiles routinely introduce pornography to set the stage for abuse. Since children of all ages are curious about sex, it is not difficult to hold their attention with adult magazines, videos, websites and e-mail. Often, youngsters are exposed to increasingly graphic materials over time.
Children as young as three have been known to innocently imitate behavior they have seen in adult videos or magazines.
Explain that adult magazines, videos or computer images can be used to lure children into abuse. Tell children that should an adult (or older kid) show them such materials, to make up an excuse to leave - and to tell you immediately. Reinforce the concept of the Bathing Suit Zone and instruct youngsters to never remove clothing for photographs or videos.
Threat & Weapon Lure
Predators may blackmail or threaten youngsters into cooperation or silence. ("It's my word against yours, and who's going to believe a little kid?" Or "Do what say, or you're going to get hurt!") The size of an adult alone can frighten a child into compliance. Though rare, being threatened with an actual weapon is by far the most frightening lure.
Stress that blackmail and verbal threats are against the law and must be reported immediately to both a trusted adult and the police. Explain how submitting to threats will only make matters worse.
If confronted with a gun, knife or other weapon, children should scream loudly and run to safety. Most predators will flee if faced with a noisy, attention-getting child. Tell youngsters to resist becoming paralyzed by fear and following the perpetrator into a car, building or isolated area.