The stick figure families that grace minivans across the metro could be threatening family safety.
A group called Ohio Search and Rescue has warned that the decals and other stickers commonly placed on cars can give away too much information to strangers.
"It does provide information to someone who perhaps might have ill intent," said Lenexa Police Department Master Police Officer Dan Friesen.
Let's say the decal shows a mom, a dad and one child. If a crook sees three people fitting that demographic head out of the house, load into the van and drive off, that crook has a pretty good idea no one is home.
That's one scenario.
Another involves a potential abductor. A school logo shows where a child can be found.
Take a stick family with two parents and two kids. If a predator sees that the parents and one child take off, that could signal a child is home alone.
Lenexa mom Kristi Lewczenko has read about the dangers and has taken them to heart.
"My husband really would like to have them on our car, just because they're fun," Lewczenko said. "But I think it's a safety thing."
But Friesen says the warning is low on the list locally because, in the grand scheme of things, it's a possible tool for criminals, not a likely one.
"While I think the information being put out is good-intentioned," he said. "I think there's a chance that it could also promote a little unnecessary fear."
He says the underlying idea is valid. People should think about everything they do that puts personal information in the hands of strangers, specifically things about their families. He says he sees that much more out of control in the realm of public social media pages.
"The best way to protect yourself in those instances," Friesen said, "is make sure you're setting your privacy to where only friends, people you approve, can see the information."
Friesen said burglars usually don't want to invest a lot of time in their scheme. They want to get in, get stuff, get out and they usually look for much simpler signs that someone isn't home.
"Maybe even as simple as going up and ringing the doorbell," Friesen said, "and if they don't get a response, it's a safe bet nobody's home."
Someone intent on abducting a child, he said, will spend a lot of time to get the information needed. Still, Friesen said even he had an honor roll bumper sticker on his car when his kids were younger, and he'd do it again, even as a police officer who borders, he says, on paranoid.
"If a criminal is going to go to that much effort to study these stickers and then sit on a house to wait and see how many people are going to get into a car," he said, "they've probably already been watching those particular children. If that's their intent, they're going to go to great lengths to watch and see the behaviors of the family. The stickers on the window: that might be a piece of the information, but I don't think it's going to tell the whole story."
In short, don't freak, but if the cute factor's not that important to you, why risk it? That's Kristi Lewczenko's perspective.
"I'd rather be proactive than reactive," she said.
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