A 10-year-old girl is being lauded by police for her quick thinking in a scenario where she didn’t feel safe.
Arizona-based mom Brenda James and her daughter Maddison Raines opened up to Good Morning America Tuesday about the incident that transpired last week, when Maddison and a friend were walking near a park and a stranger approached the duo in a white SUV.
According to the little girl, the man shielded his face while telling Maddison that her brother had “been in a serious accident” and he had been instructed to come pick her up. Maddison immediately asked him what the family’s code word was.
When the stranger didn’t know the answer, he blanked and immediately drove away, prompting Maddison to run home immediately and tell her grandmother what had happened.
“He just kind of froze, his face. And drove off,” the fifth-grader told GMA, adding, “I was scared because if I would’ve hopped in, I didn’t know what he would do to me.”
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James told GMA the family had recently launched the use of a code word to use in dangerous situations, explaining, “[Maddison] can show other kids it’s okay to ask that question and not everyone’s your friend. I think kids respond more to kids than they do adults, and they can understand they can be brave and smart and run.”
In a Facebook post by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mark Lamb praised Maddison’s parents for instilling the smart strategy in their daughter.
“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.”
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“They know who can pick them up and who can’t,” James, who also opened up in a press conference about the incident, told GMA of her kids. “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.”
The PCSO post described the suspect as “a white male, possibly in his 40s, with a short beard,” with the vehicle being “possibly similar to a Ford Explorer.”
“Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the neighborhood, circling the park several times a day,” the post continued, asking anyone with information to call PCSO at (520) 866-5111.