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EDITORIAL: Even in a small town, be wary and teach kids to stay safe

As kids spend carefree hours at the playground, set up lemonade stands and ride their bicycles, it’s easy to have a romanticized view of summertime in our small town. Yes, in many ways, Powell is a safe community, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune to terrible crimes.

Nearly 20 years ago, on a summer day like any other in Powell, a young girl named Christin Lamb was abducted while visiting her grandparents here.

If you lived in Powell in July 1998, you likely remember the details of what happened next. For two and a half weeks, law enforcement officers searched for the 8-year-old girl before finding her body at the Powell landfill. A neighbor sexually assaulted and murdered the young girl, then placed her body in a dumpster.

These details are awful to repeat. But we bring up this horrific story as a reminder that even in our small town, families need to be vigilant, because it can happen here. It has happened here.

“We should not forget the tragedy of what happened to Christin,” wrote Barb Miller in a letter to the editor in 1999, the year after Lamb’s murder.

That year, Miller spearheaded an effort to create the Christin Lamb Memorial Garden. Located in Southside Park, the garden is blooming, filled with purple flowers to represent Lamb’s favorite color. Last week, Miller and Marla Pierson faithfully tended plants in the garden, as they have for the past 18 years.

If you visit Southside Park this summer, walk along its western edge to admire the purple blossoms. Take time to remember a young girl named Christin, and take time to talk with your children about staying safe.

If you need a place to start, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers online discussion guides for talking to your kids. For instance, instead of just telling a child, “Don’t talk to strangers,” warn them that a potential abductor may offer treats or money, or ask for the child’s help to find a lost pet.

That doesn’t just happen on TV — it happened in Cody.

In October 2012, a man lured a 10-year-old girl to his vehicle by telling her he lost his dog. When she hesitated about getting into his SUV, he forced her inside at gunpoint and drove her out of town. There, he sexually assaulted the girl and abandoned her. She was later found by hunters and taken to safety.

Stories like this and Christin Lamb’s are tragic reminders that even our quiet rural communities aren’t always safe for kids.

The Powell Police Department encourages parents to develop a safety plan with their kids that helps them identify trusted adults, safe places to go in an emergency and where to go in case they can’t get ahold of their parent.

Because, unfortunately, you never know when they might need those lessons.

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