Four Scarborough girls are being commended for doing exactly the right thing after a man allegedly offered them candy and tried to lure them into his car.
On the way to Albert Campbell Public Library after school Monday afternoon, the group of 10-year-old girls showed their street smarts when a strange car pulled up beside them.
They said the man inside offered them candy and asked them to get in the car with him.
“We just all said, ‘Nope,’ and then we kept walking and he kept following us,” one of the girls told CityNews.
That’s when the man got out of his car and started walking behind them.
“He also said, ‘If you don’t get in my car, I’ll catch you. I’ll get you with my car,’” the girl explained. “So we ran really fast. I never ran so fast in my life before.”
The girls fled to the nearby library, where they told staff to call police.
Toronto police spokesman Const. Victor Kwong commended the girls for their actions, and said their descriptions helped lead to a quick arrest.
“They remembered seeing him go into a store and, viewing those security cameras, we were able to identify who this person was,” he said.
Panagiote Konstantelos, 66, of Toronto, has been charged with four counts of criminal harassment.
One of the children’s mothers, whose name CityNews is withholding to protect her daughter’s identity, said hearing what happened gave her goosebumps.
“She should be proud of herself. She’s done the right thing,” the woman said. “To me, her and her friends are little heroes.”
Today’s Parent editor-in-chief Sasha Emmons said the incident provides the perfect opportunity for parents to talk to their kids about street safety.
“By the time they are walking to school by themselves or walking home with friends, playing out in the yard by themselves, you want to make sure you’ve had a conversation about those kinds of possible situations that could be making them uncomfortable,” she said.
She offers the following streetproofing tips for parents.
- Avoid emphasizing “stranger danger” since most abductions happen by an acquaintance or family member.
- Focus on possible situations they might encounter and role play different scenarios (e.g. an adult asking for directions, offering candy, or asking for help finding their dog).
- Remind them to listen to their gut and stay away from any situations they don’t have their parents’ permission to participate in or that makes them feel uncomfortable.
- If they are approached, they should yell, ‘No!’ and run in the opposite direction.
- They should seek out safe spaces (e.g. libraries, schools, stores) and safe adults (e.g. teachers, police officers, crossing guards).