Kids in the Crossfire

Kids in the Crossfire

By Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D

We can’t talk about the heroic rescue of children without stepping into the dark world of crimes against our most innocent victims. Children under the age of 18 represent a little over 8% of murder victims. Kids are most at risk before they start kindergarten where they are mostly in the safe confines of the school and adult caregivers. The number creeps back up in early adolescence as young teens gain more independence and engage in riskier behavior.

The federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 20 boys experience sexual abuse before adulthood. Measurements rely on discovered or reported offenses, which likely means that these offenses are significantly underreported.

Besides being targeted victims of crime, children are often “collateral damage” of offenses in which they are not the intended objective.

In Aurora, CO this year a mother hopped from her Jeep to run into a convenience store when the car was stolen with her six-year-old child still strapped in the vehicle. In addition to her child, the mother had left her cell phone in the car that was used to track the vehicle. About 90 minutes later, a nearby jurisdiction recovered the car, and the child, and arrested a 35-year-old male for motor vehicle theft and kidnapping.

In a similar theft, a New Jersey father in Irvington had put his autistic seven-year-old son in the car to take him to school. In the moment it took for the father to walk a few feet away to move the home’s trash barrel from its collection location, a man jumped behind the wheel and took off. The car was abandoned a few blocks away and the child was found by police unharmed.

In Holly Hill Florida, a toddler asleep in the family car was left for a moment while the mother ran up to a relative’s doorway to drop something off. A man jumped into the car and drove away, but is seen on video dropping the child off in an alley, where someone found the child and called 911.

When gunplay is involved, the happy endings are much rarer. A 9-year-old was shot in the foot when bullets started flying between two vehicles outside a mall in Lauderhill, FL this summer. Earlier this Spring a 10-year-old boy in Washington, DC was walking with his mother when two persons unknown to the victims began firing at one another just after 8 pm on a Saturday. The boy was shot in the leg and expected to recover.

Also recently in Oklahoma City, OK a 7-year-old girl left in critical condition after she was shot in the face while playing outside. A vehicle was seen driving by with a person shooting for no apparent reason. Near the end of last year, a 13-year-old was killed in what nearby residents describe as a barrage of gunfire in their Indianapolis neighborhood. Police say he was caught in the crossfire of a disturbance that he had nothing to do with.

In body cam footage recently released from an incident in Pinal County,  Arizona last summer, a man is seen using an infant whom he had already threatened to kill, as a shield against arresting officers attempting to use a Taser on the man. The man was taken into custody with no injury to the 9-month-old baby and subsequently sentenced to a whopping three months in prison. Similarly, last year in Flagler County, FL deputies were faced with a suspect in a standoff who was using a 1-year-old baby as a shield after the suspect was confronted at a fast food drive-through lane. The child was not injured when the suspect was arrested after being immobilized by an officer’s Taser use.

The tragedy of children’s innocence being shattered by the violence of criminal adults is far too frequent. Thankfully the heroic intervention and rescue by police is also a common occurrence.