Police said an 11-year-old Arizona girl prevented a possible kidnapping last week after she demanded a “code word” from a stranger who told her to get into his car.
Pinal County Sheriff’s Office officials said in a statement that on Wednesday, Nov. 7, “a Pinal County deputy responded to a home in the North Pecan Creek neighborhood near Gantzel and Ocotillo Roads for a report of an attempted luring.”
According to the police, the unidentified 11-year-old girl and a friend were walking near a park in North Pecan Creek just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, when a man driving a white SUV pulled up next to them.
The man tried to persuade the girl to get inside the vehicle by telling her that her brothers had been in a serious accident.
The girl then asked the stranger for a “code word.”
The man was unable to provide an answer and drove off.
“We came up with a code word, and this one time, it saved my daughter’s life,” the girl’s mother, Brenda James, told FOX10 Phoenix. “She told me that a guy tried to take her.”
James said she never thought her daughter would have to resort to the “code word” tactic, but she’s glad her daughter had the presence of mind to use it to challenge the would-be kidnapper.
“I never thought it would be used, but I’m proud of her for remembering that and knowing to use that,” she said.
Police said eyewitnesses have reported the suspicious vehicle in the vicinity of the park on multiple occasions.
“Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the neighborhood, circling the park several times a day,” Pinal County Sheriff’s Office said.
“The man covered most of his face with his hand while talking to the girl to conceal any identifying features,” the PCSO added.
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb praised the girl’s parents for teaching their children how to respond to luring attempts by strangers.
“Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger,” Lamb said in a statement. “We hope by putting this out, it will encourage parents to have that conversation and create a plan with their children, so they know what to do if they are in that situation.”
The man was described as an individual in his 40s with a short beard.
The SUV was described as possibly similar to a Ford Explorer, police said.