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Helping A Child Can Get You Arrested

In a ridiculous abduction case going on in Florida, a 14-year-old boy has been arrested for “kidnapping” a 3-year-old girl because he tried to help her find her mother after coming across her lost in a department store.

Edwin, who the Sun Sentinel identifies only by his first name, was shopping with his mother when he saw a little girl wandering alone looking for her mom. Surveillance videos captured what happened next: Edwin spoke to the little girl, and offered to help her find her mom. He got his own mother involved, and the two of them began looking for the girl’s mom.

Seeing a group of women standing outside the door, in the mall, Edwin walked out of the store with the little girl following to see if her mom was among them. She wasn’t, so they returned to the store, where they located the mother and returned the child.

End of story, right? Wrong.

In the meantime, the mom had urged a store employee to call 911, and when police arrived on the scene, they arrested Edwin for kidnapping and led him out of the mall in handcuffs, paraded in front of TV reporters.

As the Sun Sentinel’s editorial puts it:

Edwin is quite the kidnapper. He brings his mom along. He hangs out in front of the store until the victim’s mother shows up. And then he returns to the store and starts shopping for shoes.

That’s one cool customer.

The mom, of course, declined to press charges. But the state is going ahead.

This is exactly the kind of cultural hysteria that makes de facto prisoners of us all. When an older child can’t offer to help a younger one get back to her mom without risking prison time for a deplorable crime, something is grossly out of balance in our culture.

We spend so much time focusing on the rare tragedies of stranger abductions that we neglect more real dangers to kids. I’m not just talking about drowning or being hit by lightning or dying in a plane crash, all of which are more likely than being abducted.

I’m talking about the danger of growing up in a disconnected world, learning to trust no one and assume every new face you see belongs to an enemy. That a hand extended to help is probably being proffered by a criminal. That an offer of help is a crime.

These are not the lessons I want to teach my kids. I want them to grow up in a world where people are more inclined to help than harm, where they can trust their instincts and make connections. What’s more, I believe that’s the world they are growing up in. I think most people do want to help each other, and most of us especially want to help children.

I’m not saying there aren’t sick, dangerous people in the world. But they’re about as common as natural disasters. I’m no more inclined to teach my kids to live in fear of them than I am to move inland because every ten years or so Boston gets whacked with a hurricane.

Photo: lrargerich

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