Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. What do you do when you see small children sitting in a car all by themselves in a parking lot of a store?
Dear Juneau Resident,
This is a tough one. There is no bright line cut off as to when children are old enough to be left in a car at a store or bright line as to how old a child has to be to supervise other children. Anyone, including an officer, seeing this would have to look at the totality of the circumstances. Is it cold and the car is off? Is it warm because the car is running and the children are playing in the driver's seat? Are the children acting distressed? An officer seeing this would observe the situation and wait, at the very least, for the driver to return. It would not be unusual for a concerned citizen to watch and tell the returning adult what was observed. Some adults don't know while they were gone the children played in the driver's seat, hit each other, were crying...etc. If there is an obvious safety issue you should call 586-0600 and report it or 911 if a child is hurt or in jeopardy of physical injury, like in a cold car and not dressed for the conditions. Even if there is no criminal situation, but the children are in some reasonable jeopardy, keep in mind that JPD sends cases almost every day to the Office of Children's Services when an officer is concerned about neglect or abuse.