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Police in Miami, Florida Worried About Serial Rapist

Aired June 13, 2003 - 09:13   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Police in Miami, Florida are worried that a serial rapist might be targeting latchkey kids. Sketches are being used in that manhunt and DNA samples are now being taken from about 75 possible suspects. DNA evidence links a single attacker to at least four of the rapes, maybe more.
What steps should parents take now and what should the kids do?

From Sacramento, a man who knows this all too well.

Children's safety expert Bob Stuber is back with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

It's been a long time since we've talked, Bob.

Great to have you back here and good morning to you there.


My pleasure.

HEMMER: I want to talk about the kids first. Your advice, lock doors and windows. It seems so obvious, but you feel it's important to point it out again. I'm assuming that people aren't doing this.

STUBER: Yes, it's incredible, people are not doing it. You know, a third of all of the crimes that occur in the house happen because the bad guy walks through an unlocked front door, which is amazing. And a lot of houses actually have the wrong kind of deadbolt locks on the front and rear door. And this is something we want people to really understand, that locking that door makes such a huge difference.

And look at your deadbolts. If you have glass in your door or around your door, you want to make sure that you have a deadbolt that has a lock cylinder on the front and the back. I have one here so everybody can see it. You want locks on the front and the back, in other words, on both sides of the door so that if somebody were to break the window...

HEMMER: Hold that up, Bob. We couldn't see that. That was outside of our camera range there. Hold that up again, if you could, for us.

STUBER: Yes. It's got a lock cylinder on both sides, not a turn knob on the inside. And it's important because if you have glass in the door, somebody can just push through the glass, reach inside and unlock or deadbolt and they're in your house. So lock the doors. That's number one.

HEMMER: Good advice there, also, call 911. We've all known that. But you point out even more important, perhaps, than knowing 911 is your neighbor's phone numbers. Why critical?

STUBER: Absolutely. Yes, if a child was home and they felt that they were in danger and they called 911, it could take five, maybe even 10 minutes for the police to get there. So you need to have it arranged with neighbors that they call the neighbors, as well, because a neighbor can come out and be there in just a few seconds, and that can be just enough to stop a potential crime.

HEMMER: They also, the other thing you say for parents of kids, define what a stranger is or who that might be.

STUBER: You know, that is so important. We've tested kids all around the country. We go up to the house of latchkey kids, where parents say we'll never get in the house, and we get in every time. They let us right in because we don't appear to be what they think a stranger is. So don't use that generic term stranger. Tell your kids specifically. I mean nobody comes in the house. I don't care if it's UPS or if it's the gas man, be very, very specific, because that generic term stranger, they don't get it.

HEMMER: Yes, and advice to parents right now. I think this is an interesting one. I was guilty of this for quite a long time. Don't hide the key because the predators are looking for it and they know where to find them.

STUBER: They absolutely do. These guys, you've got to realize, people that do this are very smart. Their I.Q. level is very high. And they study this. This is their crime. It's their life. They can find hided keys no matter where you put them. I worked with a professional criminal one time and he was showing me how he finds hided keys. Every house I took him to, he found the hidden key within just a matter of a couple seconds.

HEMMER: No kidding?

STUBER: Amazing.

HEMMER: The second item on that was lower the peephole in your door. I think that's great advice, something I didn't think of myself. But is that as simple as taking a drill and lowering that peephole so kids can see out of it first?

STUBER: Yes, it sure it. Everybody has that peek hole on their door and it's always up high. And we did a test on this, too, and we found out that if kids can access that peek hole, they will not open the door. But that mystery of who's on the other side of the door will drive them to open it if they can't see. It puts holes in your door, granted. But, you know what? It makes such a safety difference that that really doesn't matter.

HEMMER: It certainly does.

STUBER: Put the peek hole down so they can see it.

HEMMER: What about security systems? What's your advice in that area?

STUBER: You know, security systems are great. They're excellent. But it's not the end all. If you have a security system, make sure that the kids know how to use it if they're latchkey kids and they do turn it on. And also check the security company out. Your system is only as good as the people that are working on the other end of that thing. Make sure the companies that you contract with do background investigations on their employees.

HEMMER: Yes, one of the big things coming out of Miami with this story right now with this serial rapist on the loose is that police are urging their parents to make sure they know whether or not their kids are not home alone or if they are, make sure they're safe and OK.

What is your advice in telling parents when the proper age or level of maturity is to leave them by themselves at home?

STUBER: You know, that's a really tough question to answer because kids differ, you know, as far as how smart they are and whether or not they'll do the right things. But I can tell you this, we've researched this and done many tests on it, and we have found out that kids at about 10, 11 and 12 do very, very well. Younger than that, they're prone to forget things, not listen or even just open the door for somebody. And here's the amazing thing. When they start to get 13, 14 and 15, that safety factor slides again because they think they're invincible and they really don't pay that much attention.

So here's the real answer to it. If you have to leave your kids home alone, make absolute sure they know all the rules all the time.

HEMMER: Some of this stuff is obvious and it certainly serves logic, but it's a good thing as a reminder anyway to talk about it.

Bob, thanks.

Have yourself a good and safe weekend, OK?

STUBER: You bet.

Thank you.

HEMMER: Also, is your Web site. For folks who have more questions, they can check it out there. Family safety tips.

Thanks, Bob.


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