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Police Defend Charges Against Dad Who Left Kids Alone at Scott Park

The child endangerment charges created a firestorm on the Chartiers Valley Patch message board after a group called Free Range Kids linked to the story.

are defending their decision to charge the father who left his two young children at Scott Park without supervision for nearly two hours while shopping and showering.

Govindaraj Narayanasamy, 38, of Scott, was charged with two counts of child endangerment after township police said he left the 6-year-old girl and 9-year-old boy alone in the park for nearly two hours Saturday. Police say he went to to buy snacks and later drove to to shower.

The child endangerment charges after a group called Free Range Kids linked to the story and several members criticized the woman’s call to police and the officer’s decision to file charges.

Scott Township police Chief Jim Secreet said the woman, whom he would not identify, went over to the kids after noticing they were alone. She spoke to the boy, who told her their father went to park the car at LA Fitness, which is about three miles away. When the father still hadn’t returned after an hour, she thought something might be wrong and called police.

“She felt uncomfortable leaving them there because that (explanation) didn’t make sense to her,” Secreet said. “To say the father went to park the car at LA Fitness, that tells me that the child isn’t mature enough to understand what is going on. That makes me think the boy thought he was coming right back.”

Secreet said an aggravating circumstance is that the father lied to officers about how long he was gone and that the children did not have an ability to contact anyone in the event of an emergency.

“He tried to shorten the time, so that tells me he must’ve been uncomfortable with what he did,” Secreet said. “There was no contingency. They had no recourse if something happened.”

Secreet said the police officer consulted with the Allegheny County district attorney’s office before filing charges Wednesday. He said the law is ambiguous on when a child can be left alone, but said the circumstances warranted charges.

“There really is no set age as far as when a child can watch another child or babysit,” Secreet said. “You have to look at each individual’s maturity. It’s a judgment call on law enforcement and you have to look at the totality of the situation.”

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How do you feel about this issue? Join the conversation below.

Jeff R April 19, 2012 at 03:48 PM
The chief's comments are so absurd. Maybe the kid's answers were vague because he wasn't sure how to respond to some strange woman demanding answers to personal questions. Maybe the father wasn't keeping track of the exact amount of time that he was gone, and it's entirely understandable that he'd lie in that situation anyway. You've done nothing wrong, and suddenly some power tripping moron with a gun is threatening you based on how long your kids have been alone. Id certainly say that time period was shorter than it was. Contingency plan? Is this chief 12 years old or something? Does he have no recollection about the techniques he used to survive childhood?
Mike Jones (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 04:51 PM
@DC... Isn't that at the heart of this entire disagreement. When is a child old enough to be left on his/her own? From what I've read on this message board, it's all about the maturity level of the child. As for these two kids, I never wrote anything about whether they were happy playing in the park. They might have been having a splendid time. They might have been scared. They might have been malnourished. They might have been in great physical condition. Those are assumptions readers from afar have been making for the past week.
DC April 19, 2012 at 06:23 PM
No, the heart of the disagreement is the inability to stay out of other people's parenting choices. Kids are entitled to be free from ABUSE. That's it. Happily playing in the park is not abusive. Kids are not entitled to be free from "crappy" because "crappy" is subjective. What you think is "crappy" may be a far cry from what I think is "crappy." I think NOT allowing a 9 year old to play alone at a park is crappy parenting. Should I call the police on every parent I see at the playground with their 9 year old? Or should I butt out and let the parent parent as they see fit even if I think that it's "crappy"? We seem to have lost the ability to just let people be. I think insecurity as parents is to blame. And we KNOW they were healthy kids having a splendid time because everyone is silent on the issue. Not a single supporter of the police, including the police and yourself, has said that the kids were scared, unkept, malnourished, etc. That would have been the first words out of everyone who wanted to defend this action, including yourself in your articles, if that were true because nobody would support leaving miserable, malnourished kids alone in the park.
kiki April 19, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Shouldnt the writer of the story stay unbiased? Or is that not good journalism anymore?, trudging though all of the comments to defend your opinion on every single negative comment does not show professionalism or impartial. Even the wording of the story suggests slanting in favor of your personal opinion. Journalism has gone down the drain.
Mike Jones (Editor) April 19, 2012 at 07:40 PM
@kiki... I can honestly say that I could really care less either way. It really doesn't matter to me that he was charged or if the magistrate throws it all out. But I do feel that it is my job to correct any misunderstandings or misleading information. I also feel that a lot of people commenting were unfairly ripping the police and woman. As for the wording of the story, please explain tome how the story is slanted?
Patricia April 20, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I wrote this on the other forum but I'm repeting it here. To all the parents that are saying the world is a safer place for children and that the number of kidnappings from strangers has been declining well don't you think maybe that is because more parents are keeping a closer eye on their kids making harder for those people to pray on them? Saying that there are fewer and fewer kidnappings from strangers is a good arugment for leaving children unattended in a public place is like if I told you fewer children where getting lead poisoning so I'm going to paint my house with lead pain. You don't hear about the 6 year old kidnapped walking home from school with their parent. The sickos are still out there in the world and leaving your young child alone in public is letting those sickos know what kids to target
K April 20, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Violent crime overall is down, and has been on the decline since the 60s. Helicopter parenting is not the cause of the decline. We know this because all forms of violent crime are declining, including adult-adult crimes. Of course, any kidnapping of any child is not acceptable, but these are vanishingly rare occurrences. If we truly responded to the risks we are likely to encounter, we'd happily let our children walk alone, but we'd never take them in our cars. There were 115 reported stranger kidnappings of children in 2011, this about equals the number of children that were killed or catastrophically injured playing football last year. 6466 children died in car accidents in 2007, and that number has been increasing (2011 data were not readily available).
K April 20, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Further, how do you separate crappy parenting overall from a crappy day? Who hasn't ever had a child slip away from them? Could it happen to a good parent twice in one day? Why, yes, I think it could, depending on the child. Most people love their children and mean well. We, as a community, have to support other people. People, by and large, mean well and do right by others. Not everyone, not all the time... but absent real neglect or abuse - we should be supportive not punitive. That is better for society, families, and children. Free range doesn't mean no judgement... it means using your judgement to help your children learn to be responsible citizens. It means helping them learn to navigate in their world before they are thrust into it. Children are capable of amazing things and they want to participate. No one advocates dumping a child in the park with no preparation... but, prepared children are perfectly capable of playing in the park for a few hours. This whole issue has facilitated a wonderful discussion with our 6, 8, and 11 year-olds ("what if", "what then?", "how would you...").
Patricia April 20, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Yes but in addtion to the 115 there were 58,200 children kidnapped by non family members. Witch mean yes the child knew that person but that could be anything it could mean the sex affender that works in the apparent commlex the child lives in or the handy man but in all 58,315 kidnappings the kidnapper found an opening to take the child.
Patricia April 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Also if one in five girls last year where sexually abused how can you say violent crimes are down? Even if most of those girls knew there attacker the attacker found an opening to abuse them.
K April 20, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Patricia: You seem to be suffering from what is known as mean world syndrome. Let me guess, you watch a lot of tv? Favorite shows include CSI? Look at the actual statistics and determine your actual risks. I didn't even say that the 115 kidnapped children were injured (and, most of your 58,200 weren't either). If you wanted a particular child to be kidnapped... and you left them on the street to make that possible, on average they would wait there for 750,000 years. Why, then does the news make the world sound so scary? Because that is precisely what sells news. Nothing more, nothing less. One in five girls was sexually abused? Why do we think that this is any different than it's always been? Acceptable? No. But, wrapping children in bubble wrap does not protect them - read "The Gift of Fear" by a well-known expert - what saves people is developing and listening to that fifth sense or intuition or whatever it is. Really, this book could really save lives and it has to do not with overprotection, but with helping people listen to and use their "gut instincts" about people and situations, in those rare instances when it is needed.
Patricia April 20, 2012 at 07:33 PM
K I don't watch any tv don't even own one. I do read the news. I also grew up with a mother that worked in a large ER. I don't need the news or fake tv shows to set fare into me I know plenty of real stories from people that lived in the same city as I do. And most of those kids that are kidnapped or sexually abused are not hurt? What about mentally hurt. You sound like you suffer from it could never happen to me sydrome. Don't get me wrong my 7 year old plays in my back yard by her self but to play at the park that it across the street from my house she needs a buddy. I've said this before on here its called moderation give your kids freedoms but also don't think nothing bad can ever happen just becouse it never has before. I also think the free range children idea is a dangerous one to be selling. You and I well at lest I know I know that there are plebt of parents that will use this to neglect their children. Like the mother that left her one yr old alone in a bath tub because she was told he needed independentics and he was too much of a mama's boy.
Patricia April 20, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Also to get back to this story of this man from what I've gathered he left his two young children alone in park in a very high crime neighborhood. The park is also on a 4 lane highway. Thus isn't a nice park in a nice neighborhood. I also wounder how many of the parents out there that are upset about the cops being called life in small towns or safe communitys. I live in a large city one of the most dangerous cities in my state. I've also lived in a nice small twon in NH. And I can tell you big difference between leaving your kids in a park in a residental community and a sleezy park in a crummy community .
Beth April 21, 2012 at 12:40 PM
Then you know what? The police should be spending all their time dealing with the "high crime" near that park, and leave parenting decisions up to the parents..
Patricia April 21, 2012 at 01:05 PM
Maybe they are dealing with a lot of the high crime but in the mist of dealing with the most likely endless amounts of crime the stept in to help these kids.
Mike Jones (Editor) April 21, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Rather than continuing to make inferences on how much crime our area has, you all are more than welcome to visit Bridgeville and Scott Township in suburban Pittsburgh to see for yourselves. We'd love to have you stay a night or two.
Zombie Unicorns April 21, 2012 at 05:21 PM
And if the park is unsafe, isn't that a police matter? Are they doing such an awful job of protecting their citizens that two children can't even play alone in a park?
Zombie Unicorns April 21, 2012 at 05:50 PM
@ DC, Jacob Wetterling was NOT briefly alone when he was kidnapped. He was kidnapped while out with a group of friends. True, there were no other adults around at the time, but he was with other children who were too frightened to stop the man from taking him. This happened near my town, and he was the same age as one of my older siblings. Did my Mom stop letting me out to play by myself or with my peers? Heck no! She taught us not to talk to strangers, and told us to run if we were ever in the same situation. She taught us how to take care of ourselves and made sure that we understood that sometimes, bad things happen, and being prepared for them was a much better weapon for us than having her keep us sheltered indoors or at her side at all times. It's sad...They never found out what happened to Jacob, but my friends and I grew up knowing his name, and knowing to be wary of strangers, and to never get into a stranger's car, etc. In fact, just a few years later, a stranger did try to lure my friend and I into his car, and thanks to hearing Jacob's story, we were prepared and got away. Oh, and that incident happened on my own doorstep, not at a park. In short, there are limitless things that could hurt your child, but what will constantly sheltering them do? How will they function as adults without you hovering over them constantly?
Beth April 23, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I'm not making any inferences. Patricia, above, said that this park was in a high crime neighborhood.
Wilma Fingerdoo April 23, 2012 at 03:43 PM
@Patricia- Actually, kidnappings have always been very low, but you may not believe it because with the Nancy Graces of the world reporting cases around the clock. Most kids today die of car accidents, fires, and household accidents. Having a parent right along side of them at all times doesn't protect kids, as much as we like to think it does. The fact of the matter is that a kidnapped kid draws more viewers than the daily car accidents that kill thousands of kids. Sensationalism sells. I don't put on a Supermom cape each time I drive my kids somewhere, like I somehow can protect them from a dump truck crashing into our car. I also don't assume supermom status at the park, where I may leave my kids while I go for a run with our dogs on the running trails around the park. Our park (also in PA) has a parents "gallery" where caregivers can sit and read or have coffee and let the kids play freely in a separate area. What I CAN prevent my kids from suffering is an accidental overdose of a prescription drug(these are way up-80 percent). We have no need for drugs like Xanax or Paxil as we don't need to medicate our irrational fears of child predators. Our family prefers to live rationally, thank you.
Mike Jones (Editor) April 30, 2012 at 05:42 PM
After reading this story, I'm wondering if maybe 13 is even too young to be left alone? http://www.wtae.com/news/30975372/detail.html
David Clay May 02, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I would have gone stark-raving mad had my parents supervised me constantly after age seven or eight, much less thirteen! Not only would it not have been good for me, for my development and education, but it would have done terrible damage to my relationship with my parents.
Kathy June 23, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Seems like alot of people are on the side of the Dad.....probably because nothing bad happened. What if something tragic would have happened.....then would we be reading posts about all the adults around in this park and nobody noticed these unsupervised kids? Unfortunately we live in a society today where bad things do happen to kids and a child's safety has to always be on our minds.
Mike Jones (Editor) August 06, 2012 at 04:23 PM
The preliminary hearing against Mr. Narayanasamy has been delayed twice. His hearing his now scheduled for Aug. 9. I will post a follow-up story when the magistrate decides if he should stand trial on the charges.
Calladus August 06, 2012 at 07:45 PM
What ever else happens, these kids have learned two valuable lessons. First, don't trust your neighbors to be actually looking out for your welfare when they say they are looking out for your welfare. Two, don't trust your local law enforcement, because they are going to make your lives suck as they "help" you.
Mike Jones (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 12:30 PM
Scott Township police withdrew the child endangerment charges against Govindaraj Narayanasamy after he agreed to take several weeks of parenting classes. Here’s the update… http://chartiersvalley.patch.com/articles/charges-dropped-against-dad-who-left-kids-at-scott-park-to-shower
Guest August 16, 2012 at 12:42 PM
First off I don't care who you are ages 6 and 9 are WAY to young to be left alone. Two LA Fitness offers child care. The father could have easily taken them with him. WHy did the father NOT want to take his children? Were the kids acting up? Well guess what it's called being a parent! There is no excuse to leave children that young at Scott Park
Amanda Matthews August 16, 2012 at 01:13 PM
Because he wanted to let them play at the park. Not all 6 & 9 year olds are the same as yours, many are fine playing at the park.
Guest August 16, 2012 at 01:43 PM
well excuse me Amanda, I have a 6 year old and I would rather have my child with me. I also would rather play at the park with my child instead of leaving them alone.
Mike Jones (Editor) August 16, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Amanda and Guest... I appreciate you guys coming back to this story. I know the comments thread can get long and confusing, so feel free to move the conversation over to the updated story about police dropping the charges against the father... http://chartiersvalley.patch.com/articles/charges-dropped-against-dad-who-left-kids-at-scott-park-to-shower

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