"Stranger danger" used to be the slogan used by parents everywhere to warn their children of the risks associated with talking to people they don't know. And while statistics actually show abducted children are often taken by someone they do know versus someone unknown to them, it's easy to see why many parents fear the worst: Protecting your child is one of the most primal instincts you can have. It's why new mothers are often prone to watching their newborns sleep at night, making sure their little chest rises and falls with each sweet breath. But what happens when your child's still too young to understand your safety tips? What happens if you turn your back for mere seconds, only to have the worst actually occur? It can happen, as seen in this terrifying video of a stranger grabbing a baby from a shopping cart in Houston, Texas.
In the video, mom Florence Monauer is going about her day, shopping for groceries with her 14-month-old daughter in tow. She turns her head for a brief moment to look at some products on the shelf — her baby just inches away from her — when a strange man approaches and tries to pull the baby out of the shopping cart. Luckily, the little girl was securely strapped in, preventing the man from getting the baby out completely.
When Monauer turns her head back to her baby, the man attempts to help her put the baby back in the cart. She quickly takes her daughter into her arms, at which point the video appears to show the man saying something to the pair. According to WCSC-TV, Monauer said he didn't speak directly to her, but told the baby, "Oh, I was trying to take you while your mother wasn't looking." While the man has yet to be identified or charged with a crime, Houston Police are investigating the incident as a possible attempted abduction.
This latest occurrence of potential abduction takes place as parents are already on high alert. On Saturday, the FBI asked the public's help in identifying a suspected serial child abductor in Ohio. A $20,000 reward is being offered for any information that leads to an arrest of the suspect, wanted for the May 21 abduction of a 6-year-old girl in Cleveland. Forensic evidence has also tied the man to another attempted abduction of a 10-year-old girl in Elyria, Ohio, in February. While both girls are now safe, the abductor's audacious methods have horrified parents, as the suspect is said to have taken the children directly from their homes — the exact place they're supposed to be safest.
Stranger abduction stories — perpetrated by the Ohio suspect — are rare, but Beth Alberts at Texas Center for the Missing says would-be kidnappers are getting more brazen than before. "We're getting so good at preventing these types of things that people who truly want to go to those measures have to be more and more desperate and more and more risk-taker,” Alberts told WCSC-TV in Houston.
While nothing can keep children 100-percent safe at all times, basic safety measures can go a long way toward helping ensure your child doesn't become a victim. These resources from Texas Center for the Missing are a good place to start, but for Monauer, simply buckling her baby's seatbelt probably saved the day. "She was attached to the shopping cart cover, and I think if it weren't for that cover, he probably would have taken off with her all together,” she said.