Recent stories stress need for vigilance

Published 5:30am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Even “horrified” seems too weak a word to describe the story of perversion that was made public last week in Tallassee.
A 31-year-old man was arrested last week and charged with at least 86 counts of sexual abuse of a minor, in a pattern of molestation that reportedly goes back more than a decade.
Steven Norman Conrad Jr., was charged for the sexual abuse of eight children, though investigators believe many more victims could exist. Conrad’s wife and two others were also arrested and charged with rape and sodomy.
Conrad’s alleged victims included his own children and those of women he dated.
Such crimes boggle the mind, and that they could go on for so long unreported should be a call to action.
Then on Monday came a national story in which Cleveland three women finally escaped the alleged kidnappers who held them against their will the last 12 years.
Only the timely escape of one woman, Amanda Berry, and the attention of a neighbor who called 911 alerted authorities and freed the long missing women.
In both cases, with crimes that stretched so many years, surely someone noticed something that seemed odd, out of the ordinary or outright wrong.
Yet nothing was said until, in the Tallassee case, eight or more children had their innocence stolen at such impressionable ages.
The crimes with which Conrad was initially charged were against children who ranged from just five months to 13 years old.
In the months and years after the 9/11 attacks, we were bombarded with the admonition “if you see something, say something.” This was in reference to signals of impending terror attacks.
But in our communities, we never know when we could see something that doesn’t look proper, especially where children are involved.
Most times, it’s likely innocent. Even our staff members, at times, have had awkward encounters with parents while taking pictures at youth sporting events or on playgrounds. But we shake off the inquiry, ask if the parent minds and, if possible, print the child’s picture the next day.
In most instances, the innocent understand the need for vigilance. A simple question or innocent conversation is usually enough to separate the curious from the criminal.
It could have saved so many children unspeakable trauma in the Tallassee abuse case. It could have save the kidnapped ladies in Cleveland more than a decade of their lives.

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