- An 11-year-old girl in the San Tan Valley, Arizona was walking home with a friend last week when a man in a white SUV told her that her brother was in trouble and to get in the car.
- The unnamed girl instead demanded the man give her the family “code word,” so she could be sure her parents sent him.
- This spooked the attempted kidnapper and he stormed off. Now the local police are praising the girl’s family for their clever code word system.
One word saved an 11-year-old girl from being kidnapped in Arizona.
The unnamed girl was walking home from a park in San Tan Valley with a friend around 3:45 p.m. last Wednesday, when a man in a white van pulled over and told her that her brothers were in trouble, KSAT reported.
“He told her that her brother had been in a serious accident and that she needed to come with him,” the girl’s mother, Brenda James, said at a press conference.
Luckily, the girl remembered to ask the stranger for the code word that her family had devised a few months ago, to make sure her parents really sent him.
That spooked the man.
“The guy covered his face, panicked, and took off,” Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb told NBC News.
While the girl didn’t get a good look at the suspect, since he had his face covered for most of their interaction, police believe they are looking for a white man, possibly in his 40s with a short beard.
Other children at the park reported seeing the white SUV in the area “circling the park several times a day,” according to a Facebook post from the sheriff’s office.
Lamb asked the mother to speak about the incident at a press conference in hopes that other parents would take note and devise similar plans with their kids.
“Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger,” Lamb 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.”
Other parents responded to the department’s Facebook post, sharing their code words and plans for keeping their kids safe. One mother said her family’s code word was “jellybeans.” “If they didn’t know that then they didn’t go with you,” she wrote.
James said that her daughter is fine, though she did take the next day off from school because she was shaken up.
“I never thought it would be used, but I’m proud of her for remembering that and knowing to use that,” James said. “This one time, it saved my daughter’s life.”
Anyone with any information on the suspect is being asked to call the sheriff’s office at 520-866-5111.