Jayme Marquardt is doing everything she can to teach her two children about the danger of strangers.
The Clive mom says it's no-holds-barred when trying to protect her children from the unknown.
"I've had many conversations with my 9-year-old daughter about strangers. I've also started talking to my 4-year-old about it more," she said. "I teach them that strangers can look nice and they can be anyone … man, woman, young, old, etc. But if you don't know them, they shouldn't be talking to you."
Marquardt's lesson on stranger danger is much more relevant in light of a recent report of a suspicious gray minivan that followed two fourth-grade girls home from a Waukee park Tuesday evening.
Jeff Mellencamp, a school resource officer with the Waukee Police Department and Waukee Schools, says the two girls involved in the incident did everything by the book when it came to reporting the incident.
"They did exactly what they were supposed to do," said Mellencamp. "They rode their bikes home and ran inside and told the one girl's mom. That's exactly what we teach these kids to do — run and tell an adult."
How to Start the Conversation
Still, talking to your children about the danger of strangers is a tough one. Children who are too young and too easily wooed by promises of candy or the chance to pet a puppy might not get the full gist of who a stranger really is.
"I would just start right in and tell them that anyone you don’t know is a stranger and if a stranger were to come up and offer you candy or ask them to help them find their puppy, you have to run home and tell your parents right away," Mellencamp said. "For the littler kids, you have to explain it a little more for them to fully understand it."
Mellencamp says it's important to emphasize that a stranger is someone your child doesn't know. If they should be approached by a stranger — no matter what that person says or does — implore them to run away and tell an adult.
Karen Christensen of Waukee says she still talks to her two children — ages 9 and 6 — about the dangers of people they may not know, all the time.
"Seems like I have had numerous talks lately both with my 9-year-old and 6-year-old," she said. "'Dateline' had a segment on about a month ago that the kids and I watched together. That's what started up the whole conversation for us again. I think it helped for them to have more of a visual eye, like a video to watch, than for it to just be 'talk.'"
Waukee Safe House
Teaching your children about how to deal with strangers is one thing, but what happens if an adult they trust isn't around?
Mellencamp says the Waukee Police Department has that covered with the Waukee Safe House program.
Waukee Safe House is similar to the old Blue Star program where a participating household would display a blue star in their front window to let others know it was safe to go there in the event of an emergency.
With the Waukee Safe House, interested residents need only contact the Waukee Police Department and provide information for a criminal background check to be considered. If approved, residents can display a certain window cling to signal that there's is a safe house.
The program is expected to begin this summer.
For more information on the Waukee Safe House program, contact the Waukee Police Department at (515) 987-1073.