KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The military is tightening adult supervision rules for children ages 5 and 6 following reports of child molestation and attempted child abduction on Kaiserslautern-area military bases over the last several months.
Children in that age group may no longer play unattended in the yard or at the playground, nor walk to school or to the bus stop without a parent or appropriate caretaker, according to a new child supervision policy for the Kaiserslautern Military Community issued Tuesday.
Previously, children those ages could play unattended in the yard or at the playground for less than one hour during daylight hours and only “with immediate access to adult supervision,” according to the old policy.
At a town hall meeting Tuesday evening on Vogelweh, where the most recent instance of child molestation was reported last week, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the Kaiserslautern Military Community, said authorities are still actively searching for a suspect. He said the suspect has approached the victims both on foot and in a vehicle.
Franklin said there have been two reports of molestations and one report of an attempted abduction over the last eight months.
“Please, now is the time to watch your children,” Franklin said. “Our first line of defense is our parents.”
Military officials in the Kaiserslautern area are also stepping up efforts to make people aware of the recent incidents, to educate parents on supervision and inform students on how to avoid being a victim of a child predator.
The Air Force is offering two classes this week for parents on “stranger danger,” while Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe in the Kaiserslautern area are also adding “stranger danger” presentations and working with parent-teacher organizations on child supervision issues.
The Air Force and Army have stepped up joint military patrols, including by foot and bike, focusing on housing and school areas on military bases in the Kaiserslautern area, officials said last week.
Some other U.S. military communities also adopted additional security measures.
In Stuttgart, military police are picking up patrols around play areas and walking routes used by children on their way to and from school, according to garrison officials.
“Even though this is going on in K-town, it’s scary and we’re taking it seriously,” said Mark Howell, spokesman for the U.S. Army Garrison in Stuttgart, in an email.
In addition to beefed up patrols and posting information on the garrison’s Facebook page about the situation in Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart’s Child and Youth Services staff are alerting parents to the situation as they pick up and drop off their children, Howell said.
The garrison is urging parents “to talk to their children about what to do in those situations,” he said.
Officials at other bases said they already take steps to inform parents and protect children and were not planning additional measures since they had no known child molester in their communities.
Lt. Col. Scott Harbison, director of Emergency Services for U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr, said the threat of child molestation and abduction is localized in the Kaiserslautern Military Community; there is no indication of any threat in the Bavarian Military Community, he said.
Navy officials at the base in Naples, Italy, have a sustained child abuse prevention and education program, which includes background checks and required annual training for everyone who works with children, base spokesman Lt. Matt Gill wrote in an email.
“In all youth program spaces there are posters with reporting procedures and prevention information,” Gill wrote.
The Naval Support Activity Naples community has no known child molester and has had no incidents in at least six years, Gill wrote. No additional programs or awareness campaigns are planned at this time.
Similar programs are provided at the Navy’s base in Sicily, said spokesman Lt. Timothy Page.
“In regards to the recent reports in the Kaiserslautern area, we haven’t altered our approach or focus here in [Naval Air Station] Sigonella. The safety of the our entire community is of the utmost importance and a top priority of NAS Sigonella leadership,” Page wrote.
Stars and Stripes reporters John Vandiver and Sandra Jontz contributed to this report.