A 10-year-old Arizona girl and her parents have been praised by police for outsmarting a would-be kidnapper.
Maddison Raines and a friend were walking through a park on November 7 when an SUV pulled up beside them and a man, who kept his face shielded, told Maddison that her brother had "been in a serious accident" and he'd been asked to come pick her up.
Maddison immediately asked him what the family code word was and when he didn't know the answer, he drove away. Maddison ran straight home and told her grandmother.
In a post on the Pinai County Sheriff's Office Facebook page, police praised Maddison for her quick thinking and applauded Maddison's parents for setting up the foolproof strategy with their daughter for dealing with stranger danger.
The post read: "Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger. 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."
The post went on to advise the community that children in the neighborhood had seen an SUV circling the park several times a day. A description of the man was given and the community was asked to "be on alert" and call police with any information.
On Good Morning America Maddison said that the man "just kind of froze" and drove off when she asked him for the code word. She added, "I was scared because if I would've hopped in, I didn't know what he would do to me."
Her mother Brenda James explained to GMA, "They know who can pick them up and who can't. But there's always that special situation where there might be somebody they don't know or don't know well, so that's why we came up with a code word."
In a press conference James said that she'd had a family code word as a child too.
She hoped Maddison's example would be a great lesson for other kids. Kids don't always realise that not everybody is your friend, and that it's okay to ask that question, she said.
With the Christmas holidays coming up, and kids likely to out and about more, there has never been a better time to establish a family code word with your child.
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