Get tough on parents leaving kids in cars (Opinion)
In New Jersey when a parent stupidly leaves a young child unattended in a car they can get a slap on the wrist or the book thrown at them or anything in between. We need more consistency in punishments. The first step towards that is deciding if we're serious about protecting children or if we're going to treat abandoning your child like jay walking.
There were two cases recently where both mothers were allowed to go home after a summons. In Ocean Township on Friday police found a 2 year old girl toddling aimlessly around an active parking lot at a shopping center. They found a parked car with a door slightly open and ran the plate to find the name of the owner. Then they had that name paged inside the Burlington Coat Factory store and sure enough there was the mother. He daughter had fallen asleep and she made the idiotic choice of leaving her child alone in the car to sleep while she spent half an hour inside the the store. This kid got out of the car and was wandering a parking lot. She could have been killed. Or taken. She was charged with endangering the welfare of a child and only given a summons and released. Perhaps more will come out of an investigation by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency.
Then on Saturday outside a bar in Jackson someone noticed four kids ranging in age from 1 year old to 8 years old left unattended in a pickup truck. Police were called who determined they had been left there for half an hour. Inside the bar police found the mother and father shooting pool. The man was charged with four counts of endangerment and driving without a license, operating an unregistered motor vehicle and failure to use a car seat. They also found he had warrants. He was taken to the Ocean County jail. The mother was charged with endangerment and, just as the other mother, released.
I understand they will have to go to court to answer their summonses, but is there any logical reason why these mothers shouldn't have been taken away in handcuffs? Should you really get to sleep in your own bed the same day you've abandoned your children in a car to go shopping or shoot pool?
Tragedies do happen. It's not just hot car deaths in summer. Two month ago in College Park, GA a 4 yr old and a 1 month old were left by their mother who ran inside a store. Two teenagers stole the car and the mother saw her car being driven away with her girls inside. They later found the 4 yr old wandering on the shoulder of a dangerous road. It wasn't until two hours later they found the 1 month old left in her car seat abandoned in a roadway. Luckily they weren't killed.
In Kansas last year a 3 year old girl was taken when a car was stolen from a gas station. The girl's mother's boyfriend had dashed inside the store to get a drink and in that short time someone stole the car with the girl inside. She was eventually found near the abandoned vehicle over twenty miles away from where it had been stolen.
The list goes on.
The point is it's never okay to leave a child alone in a car yet punishments would indicate otherwise. I'm not saying removing children from the home is the best option but a simple fine isn't either. If there were uniformity in the penalty for this type of child endangerment what would you have it be? Take our poll below.
Jeff Deminski can be heard with Bill Doyle on New Jersey 101.5, every weekday, from 2 to 7 p.m. Listen live online here at NJ1015.com or on the NJ1015 app. Follow Jeff on Twitter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed here are solely those of Jeff Deminski.
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