Arizona Girl Prevents Kidnapping By Asking for Family Code Word

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A very brave 10-year-old girl from Arizona is receiving praise from police after her quick thinking when she didn’t feel safe.

Maddison Raines and her mom Brenda James shared the details of the encounter on Good Morning America last week, explaining how Maddison’s smart thinking potentially saved her life. The little girl and her friend were walking near a park when a strange man approached the pair in a white SUV. Maddison says the man hid his face while telling her that her brother had “been in a serious accident” and he had been directed to come pick her up. Right away, Maddison asked him for the family’s code word.

When the stranger didn’t have the answer to that question, he blanked and immediately drove away. The girl quickly ran home to tell her grandmother what had happened.

“He just kind of froze, his face. And drove off,” the fifth-grader told GMA, adding, “I was scared because if I would’ve hopped in, I didn’t know what he would do to me.”

James told GMA the family had recently begun using a code word for potential danger, explaining, “[Maddison] can show other kids it’s okay to ask that question and not everyone’s your friend. I think kids respond more to kids than they do adults, and they can understand they can be brave and smart and run.”

The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office posted a warning on Facebook about the incident, writing:

On Wednesday, November 7th, a Pinal County deputy responded to a home in the North Pecan Creek neighborhood near Gantzel and Ocotillo Roads for a report of an attempted luring.

At 3:45 p.m., an 11-year-old girl was walking with a friend near a park in the neighborhood when a man, driving a white SUV, pulled up next to them. The man told the girl that her brothers were in a serious accident and she needed to go with him. The child asked the man what the “code word” was, but he did not know it and drove off.

“Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger,” said Sheriff Mark Lamb. “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.”

Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the neighborhood, circling the park several times a day. The man covered most of his face with his hand while talking to the girl to conceal any identifying features. He is described as a white male, possibly in his 40s, with a short beard. The SUV was described as possibly similar to a Ford Explorer. We are asking people to be on alert and call PCSO at 520-866-5111 with any information.

In a Facebook post by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Sheriff Mark Lamb praised Maddison’s parents for teaching their daughter about this very smart strategy.

“Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger,” he 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.”

“They know who can pick them up and who can’t,” James, who also shared details about the incident in a press release, said to GMA in reference to her kids. “But there’s always that special situation where there might be somebody they don’t know or don’t know well, so that’s why we came up with a code word.”

The PCSO post described the suspect as “a white male, possibly in his 40s, with a short beard,” with the vehicle being “possibly similar to a Ford Explorer.”

“Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the neighborhood, circling the park several times a day,” the post continued, asking anyone with information to call PCSO at (520) 866-5111.

For more information, please visit the official website of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office HERE.

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I am a multimedia journalist and proud graduate from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. I am originally from Minnesota, and I love learning about my second home, Arizona, and all of it's awesome communities through my contributions to My Local News! When I was a little girl, I created my own "newspaper" for my neighborhood and spent all my time writing, printing and sending each edition to my loyal subscribers (AKA my family and neighbors!). Now, it's a dream come true to be able to write everyday and have a positive impact on communities through my reporting. In my free time, I love to travel, hike, cook and spend time with my family and friends.
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