2012-06-20 / Features

Fighting Back Against Child Predators

BY LIZ GOFF

Take a look at the most wanted man in Western Queens.

Police say Mark Synclair, 33, was standing outside P.S. 92 in North Corona on the morning of May 29, his stocky frame blended in among the parents hurrying as usual, to make sure their children get to class on time.

But unlike the others, Synclair had a plan that would have made the morning anything but usual, police said.

Synclair quickly singled out a second-grader who was standing outside the school at 100th Street and 34th Avenue and grabbed the boy in an attempted abduction, police said.

The seven-year-old fought back, struggling fiercely to free himself from his would-be kidnapper. Somehow, the boy managed to break free from his captor and run into the school.

Police sources said the boy was so traumatized that he “shut down” and did not tell anyone what had happened until he opened up to a school administrator the next day.

The boy was later able to identify Mark Synclair as his attacker, police sources said.

Synclair is no stranger to the criminal justice system, police officials said. In fact, he has a history of prior arrests dating back to 1999, including a March, 2001 arrest for sex abuse and unlawful imprisonment, a February, 2009 arrest for public lewdness and a June, 2010 arrest for criminal sex act.

Synclair is described as a black male, approximately 5’9’’ tall and 200 pounds, with short, dark hair.

Police are urging anyone with information on the whereabouts of Synclair to call the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or click on www.nypdcrimestoppers.com. Escape School

The attempted abduction of the Queens second grader, along with the recent arrest of a suspect in the 1979 Etan Patz disappearance, has parents and guardians of young children on edge—struggling with the horrors of child abduction.

Strangers in the United States abduct nearly 5,000 children each year. Almost 400 of those children will never be seen alive again.

The Houston-based Service Corporation International (SCI) and the Dignity Memorial network of funeral homes took action in 2000 to help safeguard youngsters against child sex offenders who grab children off streets, from playgrounds, schoolyards, shopping malls and other public sites. They are described by law enforcement sources as real-life monsters who toss children down stairs, burn, beat and sexually abuse them – and throw them away like trash.

In response to this, SCI and the Dignity Memorial network established the Escape School, dedicated to providing youngsters, parents, grandparents, guardians (and anyone else), with the means to help prevent child exploitation and abduction.

Escape School trainers are available nationwide, locally through the Thomas M. Quinn & Sons Funeral Home in Long Island City and at affiliated funeral homes throughout the tri-state area. The trainers provide outreach and present Tips for Kids, and Tips for Parents on how to prevent child abduction.

Escape School trainers are also available to present the facts to community groups, schools, parent-teacher associations, civic associations, etc. Law enforcement officials hail the talks as invaluable in terms of much-needed guidance and instruction.

The Escape School offers information on preventing child abduction, school violence and Kid-Safe Cyberspace, said George L. Stamatiades, a certified trainer and vice-president of the Thomas M. Quinn Funeral Home.

Tips for Kids includes a question-answer session with youngsters, telling kids how to prevent abduction and offering the following advice:

•When home alone, never tell a caller no one is there with you.

•When playing away from home, run away from people who make you nervous. Remember, no adult should ever ask kids for help with directions, finding a lost pet or other problem.

•To escape abduction, you should throw something out of a car, disable the car by pushing a button or a penny into the ignition, when the car stops, push on the accelerator pedal to bump into the car ahead.

•Scream, yell, kick, punch and do anything to attract attention from grownups nearby.

•Youngsters are also taught to find a phone, dial 911 and say, “Help. I’ve been kidnapped,” then quickly put down the phone – but without hanging it up.

•Stamatiades advises parents to keep pertinent information on their children in their cellphone or wallet, including a recent photo of each child.

Keeping this information with you at all times allows parents to provide instant information to law enforcement if a child is kidnapped or abducted, he added.

Stamatiades outlined the following scenarios to help parents teach children how to prevent abduction:

•What should your child do if a stranger approaches them on the street and tries to pull them into a car or other vehicle?

“Take off running,” Stamatiades said. “Run in the opposite direction from the direction of the car. It makes it harder for the predator to reach the child,” he said. “And by the time the predator catches up to the child, they can be in a crowded area, or near stores where they can seek help.”

•What should your child do if they are grabbed off the street and forced into the trunk of a car?

“Kick, scream, bang on the trunk,” Stamatiades said. “Parents should teach children how to disconnect tail and brake lights. It’s really not hard to do,” he said.

Statistics show there is a 50 percent chance that police on patrol will see the missing lights and stop the driver, law enforcement sources said. “If the vehicle comes to a stop and the child hears voices other than the kidnappers, teach them to scream at the top of their lungs until someone realizes they are in the trunk.”

•What should your child do if a stranger tries to abduct them while they are riding their bicycle?

“Don’t let go of the bike,” Stamatiades said. “Hold on tight, because it’s too big and bulky to get into a car without being noticed. And it takes too much time,” he said.

“Kick, scream and use the bike as a weapon to get away from the stranger. Use the bike to stop him from overpowering you,” he said.

•“Children should be taught to never unlock a door when they are at home alone,” he added. “Tell children to remember – they are safe as long as the predator is outside, while they are on the other side of a locked door. And teach them to call 911 immediately if someone tries to break in.”

For information on how to contact Stamatiades, or for information locally on the Escape School, call the Thomas M. Quinn Funeral Home at 718-721-9200 or click on www.escapeschool.com.

Parents may also contact their local precinct, or call the Queens District Attorney’s Office at 718-286-6315 to file a permanent record of their children’s fingerprints, photos, etc., for use by law enforcement if the child is ever reported missing or abducted.

Additional information on missing and exploited children and ways to prevent abduction may be obtained by calling the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1- 800-The Missing, or by going online to www.missingkids.com

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