As parents, think of the advice you have given your children about dealing with strangers.
- Don’t talk to strangers.
- If a stranger tries to talk to you run away.
- Go where there are lots of people.
Now how would you feel if that kind of advice got you arrested! That’s just what happened to a Port St. Lucie woman this past weekend according to news reports. And yes, I know there are two sides to every story and there might be information that isn’t being released to the public about the issue, but that’s not my concern here.
PERCEPTION is my concern
I have been left with the perception that this woman who trusts her 7-year-old son to walk alone with a cell phone, has been arrested because she allows him some extra freedom and encourages him to be outside instead of inside.
Is that the reality? I have no idea. I can only go by the story being reported that has left this woman charged with a felony offence.
That is the perception that I have been left with…the officer knows better than the mother in this case if the boy is able to be on his own and make good decisions.
According to the police report, “numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity.”
That’s true…in fact here’s a link to show that there are five sex offenders and two predator’s living within in a one mile circle of the park: http://offender.fdle.state.fl.us/offender/searchNeighborhood.do
And here’s the map that comes back to the search:
- Blue Pins = Offenders
- Red Pins = Predators
1 mile around the park
For comparison…don’t let your children go to the Port St Lucie Police Station because it’s surrounded by the same number of registered sex offenders:
1 mile around the PSLPD
Even if there is more to this story than meets the eye, it’s the perception that is the killer here. I, along with many other people are left with the impression that the story is exactly how this has been presented by one side only.
This story has been out for well over 12 hours with updates and not a word from the police department to try to change perception.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one…”We want your kids to run to us when there is a problem, not away from us.”or “Don’t tell your kids the police will take your children away if they’re bad.” (PERCEPTION)
I’m pretty sure the young boy in this story won’t be looking at the police anytime soon for help after his mom got arrested. (PERCEPTION)
This just sent a message to the child…we’re not here to help you out, we’re here to arrest your parents. (PERCEPTION)
This just sent a message to the parents…you will be the helicopter parent that causes us so many problems later in life when your children can’t take care of themselves or recognize danger when they are alone. (PERCEPTION)
This just sent a message to the community…we’d rather arrest the low hanging fruit of a parent using a questionable decision than protect you all against the fear we are trying to instil being the pedophiles. (PERCEPTION)
The police will rarely ever make this decision alone. There would have been any phone calls made to determine the best course of action deemed appropriate by several interested parties. In Florida (where this occurred) the States Attorney will make the final decision of whether to move forward with a case or not.
There is definitely more information that hasn’t been released which can shed light on the case but in fairness, it probably won’t be and shouldn’t be until such a time as is appropriate before the courts.
The part of this story that made me most sad was that the mother no longer wants to let her son go to the park by himself not because she fears for her safety, but because she is afraid she will be arrested again. (REALITY)
This story may become my new example for clients on why you must have a communications strategy in place for when you are dealing with tough situations.
When you have a case that has the slightest smell of the potential of emotional sentiment from the public, get out in front of the story. The child, a park, a mother, sex offenders…every recipe in this screams emotional sentiment.
No spin…spin never wins, own it. State the facts as they are. Don’t make the fact fit the case or someone might point out that every neighbourhood is ripe with sex offenders.
Information is at everyone’s finger tips today and it doesn’t go away. Social media is charged with emotional driven content and negative experiences. People complain at an incredible rate on social media about negative experiences they have had and other people love to share in that experience and pile on when they can.
Be there to enter the conversations and stem the tide of negative sentiment. Even if you can’t stop it, you can at least be there to take your licks and to show you are willing to talk to the public. That will buy you good will and respect…in case you ever need to cash some of that in.
I’m pretty sure that this case will go nowhere given the circumstances and the comment made by the SA’s office saying, “There is no law to say how old a person has to be before they can go somewhere alone.” but then again, there is no law to say how young they can be either.
But in the meantime, is that enough to take a chance on your reputation before you come out and say something? Perception is everything.