Countywide campaign urges parents to not leave children unattended in car Child risks suffocation, injury, abduction while parents run errands

July 10, 1996|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,SUN STAFF

"Just a Minute" Is Just Too Long!

That's the cry of a countywide poster campaign organized to persuade adults not to risk leaving children alone in vehicles.

"We're just trying to spread the word to make the public aware that this is a danger," said Debbie Yare, program coordinator at the Howard County Department of Citizens Services.

Yare said many parents traveling with their children make quick stops at convenience stores or markets without thinking twice about leaving the children in vehicles.

The children could be injured or abducted, she said.

It is illegal for an adult to leave children under 8 confined alone in a vehicle not in view of the adult.

The misdemeanor crime carries a penalty of up to $500 or 30 days in jail.

Howard County rescue officials said they expect more incidents because people are more active during the summer.

"There's a greater amount of danger imposed on the child," said fire Lt. Chris Cangemi. Many cars get hot enough to suffocate small children, he noted.

The poster campaign is organized by the Children Protection Committee of the Howard County Council for Children and Youth and paid with grants from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention.

Since April, workers and volunteers have been posting blue 16-by-24-inch posters in buildings throughout the county, urging parents not to leave children alone in vehicles. The poster features a boy alone in a car, looking out the window.

That's the scenario the campaign wants to avoid.

Child advocates say that in the time -- even as short as one minute -- the child is left alone, car thieves could strike, the child could choke on a toy or be kidnapped. If the vehicle is left running, the child could put the vehicle in drive.

"Anything can happen," Yare said.

In typical cases of child neglect, passers-by see the children and call police.

But by the time police arrive, the parents usually have returned and driven away.

Police don't keep exact records of how many times they are called for children left in cars, but they say adults have been charged with neglect.

Pub Date: 7/10/96

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