Yes, I'm Calling the Cops if I See Your Grade School Age Kid Walking Alone at Night

If you ever see either of my sons walking down a major street at night by themselves, feel free to call the police on my trifling behind. I'm not kidding. There is no reason in this day and age that a small child should be out roaming around by himself.

Tonight, for the second time, I had to call the cops because there is a little boy who lives in the sketchier side of my neighborhood whose mother is so clearly out of her #*@^(&% mind that she has her kid out walking down the street by himself.

Three weeks ago I was headed to Skylight Books for a Saturday night of fun. I planned to see my good friend Jason Sperber read from Rad Dad--it's a fab new anthology he's featured in--but those plans were derailed at a stoplight when I spotted a young black boy--maybe 5 or 6-years-old--standing on the corner by himself, waiting for the light to change. I looked around and saw no adult standing with him--sure there were plenty of other questionable characters around--but the kid was by himself. So, my husband, my sons and I had a quick conversation:

Me: You see that kid over there?
Him: The one by himself?
Me: Yeah, what should we do?
Mr. O & Mr. T (outraged): Where are that boy's parents?

Question of the moment. It was after 6 p.m. and nice and dark. Where were his parents?

The light turned green and the boy started to cross the street, going in the same direction we were driving.  I drove through the intersection, during which my husband and I had another quick debate over who was gonna get out of the car and approach this kid to make sure he was OK. We voted on me as being the less threatening of us both, so I pulled the car up alongside the curb and got out and ran after the boy.

"Excuse me, young man," I said as I approached him. "Where is your mom or dad?" I was so uncomfortable asking him--rule number one is don't talk to strangers and here I was, a stranger.

His reply broke my heart: "She left me."

My phone started buzzing with my husband calling me, but I kept questioning the boy as I walked alongside him. "Why did she leave you?"

"I don't know," he said.

"Where is she now?" 

"Up there." He pointed to a figure walking a couple blocks ahead of us that hadn't looked back at all. I answered the phone and quickly told my husband the deal as the boy took off running. We agreed that we had to call the cops.

I ran down the street after the kid while explaining the situation to the police. I gave them his description--young, dark skinned, bald headed black male child in a green and white striped shirt and jeans. I saw him dart into a driveway--while my husband, who had driven around the block, pulled up alongside me.

I am not the one for going down strange driveways but my husband investigated and determined through a conversation with two dudes getting drunk on the steps outside the apartment building's entrance that the boy had gone inside. I gave the police the address and told them I was leaving the scene because I did not want to get myself or my kids jumped by some trifling woman who let her child walk down the street alone and is mad because the cops got called.

My whole family was upset so we ended up driving home instead of going to Skylight. Ten minutes later, the police called, wanting to know if I could come back to the scene and identify the child.

Um, no. I gave y'all a description. No, I'm not coming over there so the mom can see who called the cops. I live around here and I'm not trying to endanger my life or my family's. I told the officer on the phone all this very directly. "Well OK, ma'am. Thank you." Click.

My husband told me that the cops probably wouldn't do anything about it--and I guess he was right because sure enough, I saw this poor child out again tonight by himself, walking down the street on the edge of my neighborhood--a spot I wouldn't be comfortable walking through at noon.

Where was his mom? Who knows. This time she was nowhere to be seen. I  again dialed 911 and gave the police his description and the details. I didn't stick around to see what happened to him. I was by myself and, like I said, it is seriously sketchy over there.  Tonight there was no pulling over to ask him if he was OK. The police didn't call me this time so I have no idea whether they found him or not.

I feel horrible about not stopping to see if he's alright, but what can I do about it other than call the police? I suppose in my mind I'd created a scenario where the police went and arrested the mom for child endangerment or abandonment and then the boy ended up in a cozy foster home.

Yeah, I'm living in fantasy land...and it makes me so angry that this child is going through this and there really isn't any help for him. But I guess I'll just have to keep calling the cops and hoping that somehow God protects this child from all the terrifying things that I imagine are happening to him.


Mandy Needham said…
Hi Liz,

It just breaks your heart doesn't it.

Do you not have any government dept or charity that is responsible for children's wellbeing? Here in the UK I would call Social Services or the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) first - the police would be my 3rd choice.
Marcia said…
For a while I lived in Harlem and I was always amazed to see how kids walked about the city, sometimes alone or in small groups. Young children like ages 5 to 10years old. They would get on the train when I did at 135th street and ride to Brooklyn or whatever alone. Seriously like a 5 year old and an 8 year old together. I grew up in a small southern city in a nice neighborhood but my my parents hardly let us go out the neighbordhood to the store or whereever. My 12 year old niece who lives in southern va is the same way, she can't even go to the park with friends (granted her parents have seen older kids/teens smoking there) that is about 3 blocks away. I am 30 now and my hubby and I are thinking about kids, I think about these things. Were my parents super overprotective or just cautious?
Bronwyn said…
I used to teach first grade and had one particularly young (and small) student, not quite 6 years old. we were in a very dangerous neighborhood so when I saw him starting to walk home alone with no friends or family, I asked him what his mom had said.

"She says I'm grown so I can walk by myself."
Jennifer said…
God is protecting him. He's sending you to be an angel and keep this kid safe. Never stop calling the cops when you see this kid in danger.

Maybe calling DCFS directly might get someone to look into his situation more?

And you did the right thing not putting yourself or your family in the position of being able to be identified by this woman. You have to protect your own kids too!
Adam said…
Of all the things treasured in life, I have always found children to be the most cherished. I look at my own children, and can't even bring myself to imagine them growing up in such a world as that child you saw. And the sadder thing is that for each time we witness something like this, we know there are countless others that we never see.
K. Rock said…
My heart aches thinking about a 6 year old out by themself. I think you did the right thing. And honestly you did more than I would have done. But after reading this I know I would think to do more.
Anonymous said…
Well, good for you for getting INvolved. I have done the same thing countless times. Standing in stores and seeing toddlers ALONE near the exit door or in an area of the store with no adult around. BUT ON THE STREET? AT NIGHT?! And I've even done the same thing after-wise: Protect myself when the seemingly clueless police expected me to show my face and put myself in possible danger. Tricky situation. WTF is going on with people? You've got all these women wanting to adopt and you don't even care about yours? Grrrrrr.

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