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Police respond to calls for children locked in cars

CPS called in one case, citation issued in the other
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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Concerned residents phoned 911 twice in two hours Thursday after seeing young children locked in vehicles for extended periods of time.

Emergency dispatch received the first call at 3:48 p.m., after shoppers in the parking lot of Walmart and Sam’s Club on Pleasant Grove Boulevard in Roseville noticed a young child alone and locked inside a vehicle. Roseville police soon arrived, ultimately calling Placer County Child Protective Services to the scene. Roseville Police Sgt. Kelby Newton said officers took a report and CPS launched an investigation into the incident.

Around 4:30 p.m. that same day, shoppers at the Target on Douglas Boulevard spotted a small baby alone inside a car. Grace Passarella was one of those witnesses at the scene.

“It was freezing outside, in the low 50s or high 40s,” Passarella said. “The baby looked to be about 6 months old. She wasn’t bundled up. She just had on a shirt and pants. Who knows how cold it was in the car.”

Passarella and four other shoppers waited by the car for 25 minutes with no sign of the baby’s mother. At some point, one of the shoppers called 911. Passarella watched the child’s mother emerge from Target right as a Roseville police officer arrived.

“The mother walked up and told everyone the baby was sick and she just wanted to let her sleep while she was shopping,” Passarella said. “One of the other bystanders was a nurse who works in Kaiser hospital’s pediatric center. The nurse told her, ‘You can’t do that. The baby could start throwing up and choke. The mother didn’t seem concerned and she was totally unremorseful.”

The Roseville officer checked the baby for signs of distress and then checked the mother for obvious signs of drug and alcohol use. Finding neither, the officer issued an all-purpose citation to the mother.

“When the officer arrived, the child was with her mother,” Newton said. “He cited her … that will cause the incident to be reviewed by the district attorney’s office and that the mother will also have to appear in front of a judge.”

Parenting help, guidance and safety instruction is available at no cost through Kids First, a nonprofit group in Roseville and Citrus Heights. One of the main programs Kids First offers is the Parents As Teachers course. Known more commonly as PAT, the course has trained, certified parental educators make house calls to help with an array of issues.

Terrah Tillman is the clinical manager for Kids First, as well as a licensed family therapist. Tillman notes unsafe practices with babies is something PAT instructors are in a position to try to correct.

“The instructors go over developmental expectations and age-appropriate expectations, but basic safety is also a factor,” Tillman said. “Kids First has a whole resource center where parents looking for assistance can find links to support and education. We also work closely with the public health nurses.”  

Any parent with a child between the prenatal stage and the age of 5 qualifies for PAT. Kids First also offers resources and guidance for parents with children older than 5. The Kids First Office is located at 124 Main St., Roseville. Kids First can be reached at 916-774-6802.