New Stranger Danger: Sex Offenders Target Middle School-Aged Children

By: Juan Carlos Fanjul

JUPITER, Fla. — It’s something many kids have to do, walk to and from school. But it’s a passage of childhood filled with peril.

“It’s very real, your child’s life is in danger,” says a man who just wants to be identified as Frank. He’s a convicted sexual offender arrested and convicted for exposing himself to two middle-school aged girls in Boca Raton.

From experience, he knows children are in “More danger when they reach puberty, the predators know that.”

“Most parents would assume that these sex offenders are actually going after younger kids, playground age if you will, but research just out shows they are actually targeting older kids.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says a startling amount of attempted abductions, 43%, now involve kids between the ages of 10 and 14. 38% of attempted abductions take place to and from school. And about the same number of cases,37%, occur between the hours of 2pm and 7pm.

The results were released in August after the NCMEC analyzed over 4200 attempted abductions between 2005 and 2010.

Armed with this new research, CBS 12 wanted to know if older school children would fall for the same old tricks.

“Kids are sensitive to animals,” said Frank.

That’s exactly what our bad guy, Detective Larry Wood of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Sex Offender unit, used to lure middle school-aged children.

We got permission from parents like Shannon Vecchio and Alicia Skulski of Jupiter.

Moms were praying their boys Tanner and Jacob respectively would not fall for the trap and stick to what they were taught.

CBS 12 outfitted an old pick-up with cameras and microphones and had our supposed offender approach the boys as they walked home from their school bus stop.

“Hey have you guys seen my dog running? Will you help me find my dog? He went to the park. I’ll give you 20 bucks,” said Woods to the boys.

Jacob and Tanner didn’t buy it and kept walking.

But when Woods turned the corner again, they ran screaming to the neighbors house and called 911.

Moms were nervous, but excited their sons did the right thing.

“I didn’t anticipate them calling 911. That was a bonus. I am proud of them,” said Alicia Skulski.

In our second case things didn’t go as well for Donna Hoagland’s children.

The 3 Hoagland kids and their friend, also from Jupiter, stopped and had a conversation with our stranger.

“What does it look like?,” asked a girl. Woods replied: “it’s my little poodle, it’s my baby man.”

“Okay, a little white poodle. If I see it I will grab it for you,” said the girl.

Eventually the kids decide to walk away, calling Mom Donna on the way.

“She didn’t say anything else, but can you watch us walk down the road. She didn’t even want to put her shoe back on, she just wanted to get out of there,” said Hoagland.

“Yeah, I really thought he lost his dog,” said Spencer Hoagland, a 6th grader.

The problem is that the kids stopped to chat, enough time for one of them to be snatched.

Nancy McBride from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says parents should tell their kids this is the one occasion they CAN be rude to a grown-up.

“Get out of the situation immediately. Don’t talk to them, don’t ask any questions, don’t wonder if this is real. You get away,” said McBride.

Frank, a real sex offender, agrees.

“I don’t think children are taught sufficiently by their parents when they reach that age, that any stranger that approaches you with anything, you run, you scream.”

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