Kids tackle abduction threats

By KAREN KELLER
HERALD NEWS

HALEDON -- Child abductors beware: Fifty-five fourth-graders here now know how to kick your butt.

The group participated in a self-defense seminar being taught in schools countywide by Passaic County Sheriff's Department officers. Preventing child abduction is the main goal of the weeklong, 10-hourcourse.

For two hours a day this week, the Haledon children learned tips ranging from never giving personal information over the Internet to how to describe a potentially dangerous adult to a 911 dispatcher.

Learning escape moves was the kids' favorite part.

"The 'low hammer' is when you hit them behind you," said Darian Oliver, 10.

Then there's "peppering," Oliver went on to explain: That's when you put your fingertips together, as if to mimic a mouth talking. "You poke them in the eyes," he said.

Friday morning, the children -- one by one -- demonstrated defense tactics. Face-to-face with a sheriff's officer dressed neck-to-toe in red padding and helmet, the children first yelled, then broke free of the officer's grip.

"Have you seen my little kitty cat?" started out the officer, in a sickly sweet voice.

"You're not my mom, you're not my dad!" yelled each student in rapid-fire speech when their time came.

After escaping from the officer, the students ran to the other side of the school gymnasium and practiced calling 911.

About 10 parents watched. Several said they were pleased with the program.

One of them, Jose Vasquez, said the risk of child abduction is greater today than when he grew up.

"Society has changed -- and not for the better," said Vasquez, whose daughter already takes private karate classes to learn self-defense, he said.

The Sheriff's Department program, called Resisting Aggression Defensively, or "RAD Kids," was started by Sheriff Jerry Speziale in 2002, said program director Officer Herbert Krygsman. He didn't have statistics on whether child abduction by strangers is on the rise. But he said he was struck when he learned there had been six near-abductions in Clifton during a two-month period in 2004, he said.

"If it saves one child, it's worth it," said Candace Komar, a fourth-grade teacher at the school and mother of two grown children.

Meanwhile, the youngsters will have to keep the new moves stored in their head.

They can't practice them on the playground.

"We're not allowed to do that," said Mevlana Ajdini, 9. "We'll get in trouble."

Reach Karen Keller at 973-569-7158 or KellerK@northjersey.com.


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