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by Abigail Van Buren

Safety Tips From Police Help Kids Stay Out of Harm's Way

DEAR ABBY: I agree with your advice to "Concerned Knoxville Mom," who would like to scare her latchkey daughter into not opening the door to strangers. However, I have a better solution.

Mom should take the girl for a frank chat with a police officer who can relate actual horror stories. Perhaps arrangements could also be made for a police officer to address a school assembly occasionally on the topic of personal safety. The police would much rather prevent crimes than solve them. -- ROGER LEONARD, BOWIE, MD.

DEAR ROGER: That's a terrific idea. I love it when readers help each other. I'm sorry I didn't think of it. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to the mother who allows her 10-year-old daughter "Amber" to stay home alone after school. If that mother would walk in my shoes for just one day, she would immediately abandon the practice. I am an emergency department nurse who has seen horrors occur to 10-year-olds who were left unsupervised.

I have tried frantically to blow life back into a 10-year-old boy who plunged into the icy water of a pond after he attempted to walk across too-thin ice. I have held the hand of a 10-year-old girl during an exam after she was brutally gang-raped by neighborhood teen-agers. I have heard the screams of a 10-year-old boy whose body was 100 percent burned in a raging house fire. I don't think I need to go on.

I realize children have different levels of maturity, but we must never forget that they are indeed children. How difficult would it be for "Concerned Mother" to find a teen-ager who would be willing to earn a few dollars to be with Amber for a few hours after school?

Some states have laws that prohibit children under a certain age being left alone. In Pennsylvania, the age is 12. If Amber were here in Pennsylvania, the "concerned" Knoxville mother would be arrested.

Please print this so that some parent who may not have considered all the consequences of leaving a child alone may see it. If it saves just one child from injury, it will be worth it. -- MORE CONCERNED IN YORK, PA.

DEAR MORE CONCERNED: I like your idea of getting a teen-ager to stay until the mother returns from work. If she has not already done so, the mother should also look into organized after-school activities for children of working parents.