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Experts warn of abduction dangers

By Leah Linscheid, llinscheid@wkbt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 11:36:20 AM CST
Updated On: Oct 23 2013 07:52:54 AM CDT
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WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The slam of a car door and a quick getaway down the street - it all takes just seconds for an abduction to happen.

Many remembered Jacob Wetterling on the 24th anniversary of his disappearance Tuesday. The 12-year-old was riding his bike with a friend when he was taken by a masked gunman on Oct. 22, 1989. He has never been found. As a way to honor Jacob, experts reminded parents that kidnapping doesn't always involve a stranger on the street.

"Statistics show that an abduction usually is someone the parents or the children know and have come to trust," said Sgt. Randy Rank of the La Crosse Police Department. The city has only seen four abduction cases since 2007, and three of those involved a custodial issue between parents. 

That statistic illustrates a common fact about abductions across the nation. They are usually a result of a violation of trust that could take place where your child feels most comfortable - right at home.

"It's getting to know the child, it's getting to know the child, it's making the child feel comfortable, said Victor Veith, executive director at the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona. "Oftentimes, the abductors have been studying the family, studying the child, and have been actively engaged at a high level."

But it's not just children who are at risk - according to Veith, adolescents and teens are often more likely to be abducted. That was the case in a Juneau County incident last week, when a 16-year-old girl jogging on the side of the road was taken by a stranger. She was returned to her family, but Jacob Wetterling and so many others haven't been so lucky.

Experts say multiple conversations with your kids is the best way to make them aware of danger, both inside the home and out on the street.

"You could have, for example, a family game night centered around different scenarios. What would you do in this scenario?" Veith said.

Other tips on how to talk to your children about abduction safety can be found at jwrc.org.

Tuesday, as the region remembered Jacob, Veith said it may be the best time to start conversations with your kids.

"Doing something proactive to help children is the best way to honor Jacob and hopefully bring him and other children home tonight," Veith said.

Families were asked to keep their porch light on Tuesday night in remembrance of Jacob and the thousands of other missing children who have not yet made their way home yet.

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