Free-Range Kids

Thief Steals Woman's Car, Drives Off with Her Kids in Backseat. Cops Charge Woman with Abuse.

Punish the criminal and only the criminal



A New Jersey mom is facing child neglect charges for leaving her kids, ages 8 and 10, in the car while she ran an errand.

While she was shopping, a man hopped into the SUV, which was still running, and drove off with the kids. After realizing there were kids in the vehicle, he crashed the thing. Everyone ended up bruised but okay. The carjacker was subsequently arrested and charged.

Mom was, too.

The nature of her errand might have had something to do with that: She left her kids in the car, while she stopped in a liquor store, at night.

But there's no evidence she was going to drink and drive. Even good parents (some of the best) buy liquor. And there's no reason to think that eight and 10-year-olds can't handle themselves, except in the rarest of rare situations. Granted, a carjacking is one of those rare situations. But we are allowed to consult real-world odds when making our parenting decisions.

Just because this errand ended up crazy—a car heist, a crash—doesn't mean parents should be expected to dream up this kind of worst-case scenario before they make the safe but never perfectly safe decision to leave their kids unsupervised for a short time. We get the idea that kids are never safe unsupervised precisely because this is the kind of story that makes the news. We never see the boring stories of millions of kids waiting in millions of cars until mom comes back and life goes on, unremarkably.

Punishing the mom is wrong. Punish the actual criminal!

NEXT: Video of Long Beach Killing by Police of Suspect Released; Officer Shot Partner, Then Both Shot Suspect

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  1. Man, the things that are illegal today that were commonplace when I was growing up. What kind of atrocities are today’s precious snowflakes going to commit on their children when they start rearing them.

    1. today’s precious snowflakes

      will not be rearing them, their grand-parents will. Which is what they deserve for fucking it up in the first place.

      1. Listen, if you raise children that are so incapable of raising other human beings that you have to step in to take over, I think you should consider it a personal indictment.

        1. The really funny/sad thing is when parents manage to raise one child well, then spoil the next one such that she turns into a twenty-year slow mo train wreck. It worked so well the first time. Why change your parenting strategy?

          1. It worked so well the first time. Why change your parenting strategy?

            Said no one with more than one child.

      2. I see this all the time in both the rural white area and “vibrant” urban area’s I live and own rentals in.

        1. I see it even in “rich” white areas. Meth-head children can come from any class or caste.

  2. Lenore – really we need to get to the root of the problem. People believe we can pass enough laws to make everyone perfectly safe.

    People need to accept that bad things can happen living in a free society. The only way to make you or your kids perfectly ‘safe’ is to live in a police state or keep them locked up forever.

    Yeah they may get hurt on the playground, but it’s worth that small risk to let your kid grow up. The kids who weren’t free range grow up to complain about the cultural accuracy of cafeteria food, and demand safe spaces at college against different viewpoints.

    1. The only way to make you or your kids perfectly ‘safe’ is to live in a police state

      AKA: “The progressive end game.”

    2. In a police state, you’re never safe from the police.

      1. Exactly. There’s no way to be perfectly safe. Everything has risks. People can’t accept that

  3. Why do people continue to be fucking stupid enough to leave the keys in the ignition and the car running?

    1. It’s December in New Jersey.

      My guess is she wanted to keep her kids warm. Or let them keep listening to the radio.

      1. I suppose there is the cold thing. Though it’s not very cold.

        What she should have done was arm her children.

      2. It’s December in New Jersey and 50 degrees. How much do you expect the car to cool down if you’re only in the store for 10 minutes?

        1. Regardless, she obviously thought it was safe. I’ll bet thousands of others did the same thing on the same day and had nothing else happen. Her risk/reward scale is just balanced a little different than yours, that’s all.

    2. meh. Depends on the neighborhood. I wouldn’t anywhere in NJ.

      1. Camden County, NJ – there are no safe neighborhoods.

    3. Yeah, unless you are driving a big diesel or your starter is broken or something, there is no good reason for that.

    4. Otherwise, she would have been arrested for leaving her kids in the cold.

      The best option she had was to be arrested fro having her kids in a liquor store.

      1. The best option she had was to be arrested fro having her kids in a liquor store.

        I’ve had mine in county liquor stores, with no problem. I consider that to be part of their education.

        1. Our local liquor store gives any kids who come in a sucker. Which led to one of my kids looking at me one day and asking if I thought maybe the beer store man was lonely and maybe we should walk over there and check on him.

      2. arrested fro having her kids in a liquor store

        I would like to think that this would never happen…. I see parents bringing their kids into the liquor store all the time here in NYC.

        1. I would like to think that this would never happen…

          At this point, I can see someone getting shot for not immediately obeying conflicting orders from multiple cops, and then getting arrested for endangering his/her children.

          1. Or have the cops wrong-door raid a house, shoot the dog, flash-bang the toddler and then arrest the parents for exposing the children to a dangerous environment.

    5. Pretty fucking stupid to be sure, whether kids are in the car or not, but no justification for arresting her.

  4. Punishing the mom is wrong. Punish the actual criminal!

    Hear! Hear!

    New Jersey should hunt down this Lenore Skenazy character and put her in stocks fro promulgating this wreckless endangerment!



  5. I blame all this “kids have to be in the back seat” stuff. One of the great joys of childhood is fighting over who rides in the front seat.

    1. No, this is not it. As an only child, I was perfectly happy to have the entire back seat for myself. That didn’t stop from becoming a libertarian.

      1. I think he was just saying that if there was a kid in the front seat the car thief would have seen her and not taken the car.

  6. OK, I totally agree that the woman shouldn’t be in jail. It is bullshit.

    Having said that, it sounds like the car doors were unlocked (“A man hopped into the SUV….”). I have left my kids in the car for 5 minutes (especially when one of them was 10 years old) with the car running. But I generally left the doors locked. A 10 year old (an 8 yo FFS) should be able to lock and unlock the car door. Now if he had a gun and threatened the kids that is a different story.

    And lets face it, with leaving the kids in the car running at night, AT THE LIQUOR STORE, there is no way this lady comes out of this looking good.

    1. And it depends on the liquor store. If she stopped in at the local liquor store in Dogdick Iowa that’s one thing. If she left her kids in the parking lot of the liquor store on Martin Luther King Blvd in St Louis, well that’s kind of stupid. Not jailable, criminal or necessarily negligent even, but definitely stupid.

      1. I’ve been to that one in Dogdick IA. They have a nice selection of Belgian Quads.

      2. If she lives on MLK Jr. Blvd in St. Louis, then she might feel just as comfortable as you do in Dogdick IA, though. In fact, Dogdick is where she might roll up the windows, lock the doors and start running red lights.

        1. People in Faluja would probably not live in North STL.

  7. Also, a note to Lenore:

    Something very similar happened last week in Springfield, MA. Woman left her 2 year old in a running car while she ran into the laundromat. Police reported it to DCF because “we’re required to”. May want to look into how they handle it since it’s your thing.

  8. Thanks Zod for the police and their Solomonic wisdom. Having your car and children stolen from you, having the car crashed and no idea as to whether your kids are alive or not, for who knows how long, is no punishment. Yeah, you were a massive dumb-ass, possibly the dumbest dumb-ass that ever came to Dumbtown, but that’s no excuse.

    Good work oinkers. Take a teachable moment and turn it into fuckwaffle circle-jerk central.

  9. If she had better children she wouldn’t have to drink. Arrest the kids as well.

    1. “Mommy Drinks Because You Cry”

      1. “Because I can do it! And I have quiet shoes…”

      2. Daddy ‘s gone because of YOU!

      3. Ah, the classic children’s books. Some of my other favorites include:
        “Strangers Have the Best Candy”
        “Bi-Curious George”
        “Why Can’t Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet be Friends”
        “Kathy Was So Bad, Her Mommy Stopped Loving Her”
        “You Are Different and That’s Bad”

        1. Art Bell was talking about that video of the cop who threw that girl in class a few months back. I was funny cause he was watching the news and his 5/6/7 (whatevs) daughter asked him “What did she do?” and Art said, being flippant and not thinking he was talking to a 5/6/7yo “She misspelled a word.”

          He said I immediately regretted that. Funny shit.

          1. I remember that.

            What do you have to say about what’s happened to him and MITD?

  10. Well, it is the holidays, maybe she needed ingredients for vodka margarine…

  11. Meteor Strikes School, Parents of Attending Schoolchildren Arrested for Neglect.

  12. Normally the free-range kids posts here are a slam-dunk for appropriate outrage, but this one is a stretch. Leaving your kids in a running, unlocked car, in a liquor store parking lot at 11:00 pm on a Saturday night? Sorry, that seems negligent to me.

    (The liquor store aspect is not to condemn the mom for buying liquor, but because everyone should know that liquor store parking lots are likely to be skanky places, especially on a Saturday night.)

    1. They are decidedly safer in a parked car than inside the store.

      1. Not in an unlocked, running car they aren’t.

    2. Oh, please. It might have been a dumb decision to leave the car running and unlocked, but that doesn’t mean you get to send the government after her merely because you think she did something stupid. She was punished enough already by the event itself.

      So live your life in fear if you wish, but let’s not get the government to punish people just living their lives when some improbable-but-inevitable Bad Thing happens.

  13. Only in america!

  14. And the reason she left them may itself be because of stupid laws. I don’t know about New Jersey but in my home state of Oklahoma it is illegal for anyone under 21 to set foot in a liquor store for any reason. I wonder how many kids are left in cars because of this? Not that I think there’s anything inherently wrong with leaving kids for a few minutes.

    1. Kids are allowed in liquor stores here. My kids know the employees at our nearest establishment. NJ has lots and lots and lots of stupid laws, but not exposing kids to bottles of alcohol isn’t one of them.

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