Abductions and murders can, and do, happen in all kinds of communities.
After searching for Jessica Ridgeway since Oct. 5, authorities have identified her body as the one found in a Denver park on Wednesday, the NY Daily News reported.
The 10-year-old went missing after leaving her home to go to school. Unaccompanied on her walk to Witt Elementary School, Jessica never made it to her destination.
It is reported that the search for Jessica hadn't begun until hours later after Jessica's mother, Sarah Ridgeway, missed a call from the girl's school that she hadn't arrived. Ridgeway works nights and was asleep at the time of the school's call.
Shifting their efforts from a search for Jessica to "a mission of justice for Jessica," Westminster Police Chief Lee Birk urged all those in the community to contact the police if they noticed any "changes of habits, patterns, [or] peculiar absences."
It is terrifying and heartbreaking to read such a report. To think of Jessica and the horror that she endured in the last minutes, hours and possibly days of her life is almost unbearable.
Hearing stories like this is always shocking. The realization that the need to constantly watch over our children is renewed with every report of a missing child, especially in those where they never return home alive.
As a person who always takes these reports seriously, I take these as a reminder that you can never be too safe when it comes to your children.
One thing that I can say that I am surprised to still be hearing is the dismay by local residents that something like this can happen in their particular neighborhood.
The Daily News's reported ended with a quote from local resident Stacey Oppie: "We're all a little bit on alert, but it's not fear. We're angry because this is a good neighborhood."
There are thousands of "good neighborhoods" across the country. And hundreds of "bad ones." The fact that Westminster, Colorado is a good one is irrelevant.
I find it in poor taste to imply that something like this would garner less "anger," outrage or condemnation if it happened in a "bad neighborhood." I understand a parent's need to feel that they are doing all they can to keep their children safe, even in choosing the neighborhoods in which they live.
But the need for everyone to understand that this kind of act, as unfortunate and horrible as it is, is something that can happen anywhere.
Our reaction to experiencing and witnessing such a tragedy should be the same, in any community, town or state.
The real need is to identify ways that we, as parents, can act proactively, not only in educating our children on the dangers of strangers (excuse the cliche), but in making sure our decisions on supervision and independence are ones that will minimize risks for our children.