What to do if you see a child left alone in a vehicle - abc27 WHTM

What to do if you see a child left alone in a vehicle

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There have been a lot of reports across the country of kids being left inside cars this summer. One case in Georgia has a father facing murder charges after his 22-month-old son was found dead inside his car.

Midstate police are spreading the word about what you are supposed to do if you see a child alone in a hot car.

"People believe that it's okay to leave a child unattended. 'I'm just going in for a couple minutes. They're going to be fine.' Well it's not always fine," said Sgt. Keith Stambaugh with Silver Spring Township Police.

Stambaugh said there is a lot that can happen in a little amount of time.

"A child can get sick instantly. That's a problem. They can be kidnapped. Someone can steal your vehicle and not even know the child is in there," he said.

If that is not reason enough, it is a misdemeanor crime to knowingly leave a child under the age of six unattended in a vehicle. If the child's welfare is endangered, you are in even more trouble.

"You're looking at a misdemeanor of the first degree and if there's a course of conduct there, you're looking at a felony of the third degree," Stambaugh said.

What to do you do if you see a child alone in a car?

"Call 911 immediately -- call 911 and get the police and ambulance there as soon as possible," Stambaugh said.

If that child is in distress, Stambaugh said you are allowed to take matters into your own hands.

"If necessary, break the window," he said. "If you need to break the window to save the child's life I'm not going to arrest you. The child's life is much more important than that window."

It does not take long for vehicles to heat up. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the temperature goes up at least three degrees every five minutes. Experts said even leaving the window cracked does not help.

If you accidentally leave your child in a car unattended, you will not get into trouble.

"There can be an incident where maybe you do forget your child. You're not a bad parent. You're just distracted and it happens," said PennDOT spokesperson Fritzi Shreffler.

Shreffler said there are things you can do to remind yourself that you have a child in the back seat of a vehicle. For example, you can leave a toy on the dashboard or a diaper bag on front passenger seat.

"You can put your purse, cell phone, wallet, brief case, whatever it is in the back seat of the car," she said. "Something that you wouldn't want to be without so it's going to force you to go into the back seat to get that."

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