The incident occurred at a local indoor children's playground, which boasts this fun, high-rise jungle gym:
|(Off topic: Michael Ray conquering his fear! For his 4th b-day he wanted to climb to the top. He is standing one level down from the top.)|
Here's the story:
NOTICE TO PARENTS WHO TAKE THEIR KIDS TO THE COMMONS TO PLAY: Two of my kids were playing at the Commons Mall today, and I was mostly chasing my youngest all around the play area. My son was chasing her for awhile with me, but eventually decided to climb to the top of the climbing area. There weren't many people at the mall at the time, and as far as I could tell in that moment, no one at the top of the climbing area. A minute or so past and I hadn't seen or heard my son, so naturally I went to check on him. I could hardly see him, and it looked like he was talking to someone. I stepped back further to get a better look and realized there was a man hiding up there. My son ran off to the other side of the area (they were near the top.) The man crouched back outta site. As soon as my son came down I asked him what was going on. Apparently the man began taking pictures of my son as soon as he saw him, and my son said he was taking pictures of other kids down on the ground. My son also said as he got past the man, the man said, "This sure is fun isn't it?!" That is when my son ran off. I asked my son if maybe the man was taking pictures of the building, but my son said no, he was taking pictures of the kids! We left immediately and as we pulled up to the stop light the man came out of the Commons. I snapped a picture of him with my phone. We filed a report with the police department. CPD was extremely helpful, and I was pleased to see the officers took it very seriously! They also have a picture of the man now, and are going to keep an eye out! I just want to make other parents aware, just in case!!! Serious, and scary!!!!! — feeling uneasy.
Honestly, my first response was "Creepy!" and so without hesitation, I re-posted to warn other parents--friends-- who may spend time at this same play area.
In the photo above, taken at ground level several weeks ago during Michael Ray's "fun day", one can clearly see how easy it would be for a grown man to hide up there. Several questions ran through my mind:
- What was the man doing on playground equipment labeled "Ages 12 and up?
- Why was he taking photos of children?
- Why did he appear to be "hiding"?
I didn't think too much more about the situation until an elderly friend of ours who lives in the city where the playground is located began defending the man's possible motives before making this statement:
"It makes me very sad to see how all consuming fear is."
Fear??? I didn't agree at all! I felt the mother was only being protective and cautious.
My friend's words stuck in my mind as the children and I did school together. At lunch, without giving any details, I nonchalantly posed this question to the children (the older girls were in town):
"If you and your brothers and sisters were playing hide 'n seek on the jungle gym at Commons Mall, and you climbed to the top only to find a man up there, and he began taking your picture, how would you respond?"
Destiny (8): I would turn around and run back down and come and tell you.Now I am not one to instill fear into my children. I've never said to them, "Don't talk to strangers!" and they are shielded from horror stories on the news, yet each child stated they would get away from the man, as they didn't believe he should be up there taking pictures of children he didn't know.
Isaac (12): I would just ignore him and get away from there.
MacKenzie (16): I would get down as fast as I could.
Sam (10): I would ask him why he was taking pictures, then I would get down.
Michael (4): I would get down.
Sabrina (6): I would do what Destiny said. (lol)
After listening to the whole situation, most of the children agreed that though they would get away from the guy and come and tell me about it, they did not believe I should take pictures of the guy to post on the internet, or call the police, as no actual laws were broken.
So what about you, Mom? How would you have responded to this situation?