I guess amber alerts work.
A few years ago, when Tamra Keepness disappeared from her mother's home near downtown Regina, there was some criticism that a province-wide alarm wasn't raised immediately.
This week, when 10-year-old Zachary went missing in Whitewood, just off the Trans Canada highway, the RCMP were quick to issue an amber alert. Similar to a lockdown in a store when a child goes missing, the alert is designed to spread the word quickly and widely of a missing child, while there's still time to prevent someone from travelling far outside the area where the abduction took place. In this case, a man who was identified as a known pedophile was the suspect, and he already had a missing 14-year-old boy travelling with him.
In way too many child abduction cases (except for those involving a parent of the child), the child's life expectancy is about as long as it takes for the pedophile to get somewhere quiet, rape them and strangle them. The concern of getting caught outweighs concern for human life, and our kids pay the price.
The 10-year-old is safe now, thanks to Pat Beaujot, the Kipling area man who poked around the empty farm buildings next to his property and discovered the van mentioned in the alert, says The Globe and Mail.. The RCMP reported that the boy ran out of oneof the buildings to safety.
You could hear the joy in people's voices at my office as they talked about the news.
No word yet on the well-being of Late Tuesday night the police negotiated with the pedophile for his surrender and the safe release of Jordan, a 14-year-old from Winnipeg who disappeared in Brandon while travelling with his stepfather and the pedophile, who had recently met the man. Jordan had been travelling with the man, and they became acquainted with the family of the 10-year-old in their travels. on a break from a bus trip to Saskatchewan with his parents, and was seen travelling with the pedophile. The RCMP say the boy is apparently physically healthy , but until he's safely out of the abandoned farmhouse, there are no guarantees.
The amber alert brought into play a powerful force in dealing with crime - the watchfulness and actions of ordinary people. It turns our geographically enormous country into a village of people working together to keep our children safe.
The police now regularly issue alerts about known sex offenders and their whereabouts. At times it seems like an intrusion on the privacy of a person who is trying to lead a life outside of jail and halfway houses. Then you hear of young kids being spirited away, and you realize the privacy of the past offender is a small price to pay for being able to warn our communities about the real danger in our midst.
I'm sure there will be calls for throwing away the key on all child molesters in the wake of these two young boys ending up on a road trip with a convicted child molester. (No evidence has been released to show that any sexual abuse took place in this case.) What is society supposed to do with people who find the compulsion to molest so much more powerful than any deterrent? Other than try to streetproof our children against them, and increase the penalties?
But the known sex offender isn't the only one out there endangering children. Most cases of child sexual abuse involve a relative who is well known to the child, and trusted by those who are supposed to protect the child. Sometimes it's a parent.
I know at least five friends and relatives who were abused by cousins, fathers, mothers or neighbours. I'm sure there are others I encounter daily whose self image was scarred by sex abuse in their childhood.
As kids they weren't victimized by a shady stranger in a car. They were placed in trust of someone who violated their innocence, and left them emotionally scarred.
We mustn't delude ourselves that telling our kids to avoid strangers will keep them safe. When we reduce the risk of outside threats, we must also look inside.
That sometimes takes the courage to hurt the feelings of someone who offers to look after the kids. It means you have to be willing to be wrong about someone, rather than risk your kids' safety. It means you can't let yourself be blinded to sexual deviance close to home, just because it would be uncomfortable to admit it. If the consequences of recognizing abuse when it's in front of your eyes is the destruction of your family, or the permanent estrangement of relatives, that's the price you have to pay.
There aren't amber alerts to help you through that kind of nightmare. But there are community services available to help, and there's lot of information out there to help identify the signs of abuse.
Pat Beaujot is a hero today to a lot of ordinary Saskatchewan people who were on alert for signs of the missing boys. There are other heroes out there making equally brave decisions every day. Teachers and parents and neighbours and friends who help expose the less public but equally horrific abuse of children by their own family members or family friends.
(Image from South Caribou Rural Crime Watch Association website.)
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