The national headlines carry some horrific news at the moment involving children – there are two ongoing high-profile murder trials which stemmed from the tragic death of children.
So more than ever, child safety is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, and why the first reaction on hearing about the suspicious incidents in and around Stubbington is one of fear – fear that something bad might be announced.
But there are also many dangers in allowing rumours to overtake what has actually happened, and caution is never a bad thing in such matters.
Firstly, caution must be taken in believing what you are told. Already there have been rumours passed on about abductions and bodies being washed up on the shoreline. None of these is true.
What has happened is that there has been five incidents in which children have been approached by adults and in many cases have been offered a lift.
Suspicious, yes. Unusual, yes. But no child has been threatened or harmed, and in none of the cases has anything criminal taken place. As the police have said, there are differences between some of the children’s stories so they are not even sure that it is the same person involved in each case, so it could even be a grand, and unfortunate set of coincidences.
We must not rush to condemn every van driver we see, nor must we assume that there is a criminal in the neighbourhood.
But this is where caution kicks in again in a different way. We can teach youngsters to never accept lifts, and we can make sure that young children are never in a position where there safety might be compromised. Caution here is akin to common sense and is a valuable lesson to anyone growing up.
Because while the most important thing is that no harm comes to the children in our community, it would be a sad day indeed if every adult who stopped to ask for directions, or who stopped to check whether a lone child was alright, was stigmatised as a potential criminal.
Panic in this case serves no-one. Caution must be the watchword while police do their job.