Do not give in to fear, says police chief

EMMA BAILEY AND ROSA STUDHOLME
Last updated 05:00 22/11/2012

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Children should continue to walk to school and not live in fear, Timaru's police chief says.

His comments follow the alleged abduction and assault of a 9-year-old Oceanview Heights schoolboy last Thursday. A 26-year-old man appeared in Timaru District Court yesterday in connection with the matter.

The Mid-South Canterbury area commander, Inspector Dave Gaskin, reassured the public that Timaru was still safe.

"We live in a safe community. This is a great place to live. In most cases it is not strangers you have to be afraid of, it is the people you know.

"It's also important to reassure people that this was not a case of a random abduction - the alleged offender and the victim were known to each other."

Parents should feel safe about children walking to school, he said.

"I am a big believer children should walk to school.

"We should not give in to fear.

"It is a good idea for children to walk together and to have a safety plan."

Oceanview Heights principal Jenny Langley said the arrest was a relief for the school community.

She said the school's concern was now with the boy. "Hopefully, he will be back at our school soon."

The school had boosted its safety procedures following the incident, including gate duty. "I think it's always useful to revisit those sorts of procedures. Naturally . . . that's what we did. It's just about keeping those procedures [before and after school] tight and making sure we are following the procedures we have."

South Canterbury Principals' Association president David Armstrong said common sense was the best approach in protecting children.

"Just be sure as a family you are clear about what the arrangements are about getting to and from school."

He encouraged families to talk about how to react when feeling scared or uncomfortable. However, he was mindful the event was an "aberration" and had to be kept in perspective.

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- The Timaru Herald

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