SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - An 10-year-old girl who was alert about "stranger danger" managed to avoid harm when a man attempted to lure her into his SUV.
The Pinal County Sheriff's Office says it happened Wednesday in the North Pecan Creek neighborhood near Gantzel and Ocotillo roads.
At around 3:45 p.m., a 10-year-old girl was walking with a friend near Turtle Park in the neighborhood when a man driving a white SUV pulled up next to them. He told the girl that her brothers were in a serious accident and she needed to hop in his car. But the girl asked the man what the family's "code word" was and he drove off.
“I’m very proud of her, ya know, for being 10 years old she did the right thing and knew what to do," her mother Brenda James said.
"Kudos to the parents of this child for having a code word and talking about to their children about stranger danger," said Sheriff Mark Lamb. "We hope by putting this out, it will encourage parents to have that conversation and create a plan with their children, so they know what to do if they are in that situation."
It was just a couple months ago that James and her family established a code word for situations exactly like this one, but they never imagined they'd actually have to use it.
"A lot of things could have happened, so luckily this didn’t happen. My daughter was prepared and it didn’t happen, and she’s at home safe," James said.
She was at work when her daughter called her in tears to explain what happened.
“So I just kind of calmed her down and she told me that some guy tried to take her," James said. "And all my thoughts went out the window at that point and I got in my car and I drove home.”
Her daughter is fine physically, but she was shaken up enough emotionally that she didn't go to school the next day.
“The mother of this child did an awesome job teaching a code word to her child, and that potentially saved that girl’s life," Sheriff Lamb said.
Children in the neighborhood say they have seen that SUV in the area before, sometimes circling the park several times a day.
The man covered most of his face with his hand while talking to the girl to conceal any identifying features.
He is described as a white male, possibly in his 40s, with a short beard.
The SUV was described as possibly similar to a Ford Explorer.
Anyone with information is asked to call PCSO at 520-866-5111 with any information.