Protect Your Child From Predators

Although it failed to find 11 -year-old Carlie Brucia alive, the nation's Amber Alert was used with all the proper precautions, says Ed Smart.

Smart, whose daughter, Elizabeth, was taken in 2002 and returned safely home nine months later, has been very instrumental in getting the amber alert passed into federal law.

On Monday, he told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, he thought authorities did a good job in the Brucia case.

Thirty-seven year-old mechanic Joseph Smith has been charged with the Carlie's abduction, caught on surveillance tape. And on Saturday, after her body was found, he was held without bond for her murder.

A public memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday night at the church near where Carlie's body was found.

One person who knows all too well the horror of having a child kidnapped is Ed Smart. His daughter, Elizabeth, was taken in 2002 and returned safely home nine months later.

He has been very instrumental in getting the amber alert passed into federal law. And in his opinion he tells The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm, the amber alert was used with all the proper precautions in Carlie Brucia's case. It is known that it was not issued until 24 hours after the Sarasota girl went missing.

"The amber alert, the initiation on it depends on the police officer, the law enforcement involved," Smart said. As far as I can see or that I've heard, it basically went out the way it's supposed to. One of the biggest criteria is: is there imminent danger? Until they can determine that, they won't put an amber alert out because, of course, if the amber alert is used over and over and over again, it becomes ineffective.

"And so it's really critical that law enforcement is trained and knows when to let that amber alert out. And it's critical. I think they did a good job. You always want to hear it go out as quickly as possible because minutes and hours make all the difference between whether that child is going to live or not."

Having experienced the nightmare, Smart was very proactive in terms of the investigation and using the media to find his daughter. His advice for parents is to do everything in their power to let everyone know a child is missing.

He said, "You have to be asking for the public's help. You've got to do all that you can to get information - pictures, videos, anything - out on your child because the more the public knows, they care. The thing about the amber alert is, I think, it really facilitates am I my brother's keeper? Or the golden rule. I think that you just have to try to do everything you can to get that information out. People care, people want to help. And the more a parent can be out, the better off they are."

Bob Stuber, a child safety expert, said the most important thing parents need to understand is that a kidnapping can take place in any neighborhood. At the same time, he advised parents not to make their children afraid of all strangers. Instead, teach them to be on the look out for dangerous situations.

He said, "We have to be very specific with our children. This is the biggest mistake we make: we keep indicting the mythical stranger. We tell our kids, beware of strangers. That doesn't mean anything to kids. These guys are very smart, very devious people and very determined. When you talk to your kids about these lures, tell them specifically: if somebody, anybody, comes up to you and they say, 'Mommy or daddy has been hurt and I need you to go with me,' that's not true.' If somebody comes up to you and wants you to find a missing pet...

"In other words," Stuber said, "be very specific. Then you have to tell the child what they can do as opposed to going with this person."

He also noted that most of the time the predator is not a complete stranger so the key is to talk about a potentially dangerous person.

A dangerous person, for example, is any one who:

  • Tries to get you into a car
  • Grabs you
  • Asks you to help find a lost animal

Stuber said, "If somebody were to follow them in a car, one of the smartest things they can do is turn and run in the opposite direction. When the child does this, they change all the dynamics. Now, if they're just afraid and they haven't been told what to do, they'll keep running in the same direction they were walking. If they turn and run the opposite way, they increase their safety factor by 50 percent. It's that simple. As long as they're making a choice, they are in charge."

Stuber said it is not true that talking about this is scary for kids. He advised parents to tailor the information to the age group and keep the conversation full of positive messages rather than using fear as a motivator.