Ten-year-old Maddison Raines was walking near a park in Arizona with her friend when she was approached by a strange man in a white SUV. The man covered his face when he told the little girl that her brother had been in a serious accident and that he’d been instructed to take her home. According to People, Raines was not about to be fooled. She asked the stranger what her family’s code word was. Stumped, the man froze and immediately drove away. The girl ran home immediately to alert her family of what had happened. “He just kind of froze, his face. And drove off,” the fifth-grader told Good Morning America, adding, “I was scared because if I would’ve hopped in, I didn’t know what he would do to me.”
Raines’ parents had recently taught her a code word to use if she was ever found in a dangerous situation. If the stranger didn’t know the word, then she shouldn’t trust him. This smart strategy likely saved the little girls life. Police are now commending Raines and her parents for setting a good example of smart stranger danger practices.
Sheriff Mark Lamb of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office shared Raines story on Facebook, hoping that it will encourage other families to teach their children code words to use in these types of situations. “Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger,” he said. “
We hope by putting this out, it will encourage parents to have that conversation and create a plan with their children, so they know what to do if they are in that situation.”
Children often learn best from the actions of other children, which is why police hope that parents will share this story with their own children. While most parents teach their children that it is not okay to get in a vehicle with a stranger, potential kidnappers can talk their way into luring a child to obey. Often predators will tell the child that it is a special situation in which a family member is sick and their normal guardian cannot come to pick them up, as was the case in Raines situation.
Police have described the suspect as a white male likely in his early 40’s with a short beard. Children from the neighborhood have said they’ve seen him in a white van circling the park several times a day.