Mom Charged With Child Endangerment for Letting Kids Go to Mall Alone

Bozeman Police Department Deputy Chief Marty Kent, who works at the same station that arrested Kevane June 16, 2007, declined to comment specifically about the case, which was sealed by a judge in 2008.

Kent did say that in cases of child endangerment, police often err on the side of caution.

"When a child is left alone, the officer does the best they can to find and make sure care is provided for and that they're not in harm's way," said Kent. "We make a judgment call based on the statute" regarding child endangerment.

When asked what he'd say to the many parents who told ABCNews.com that the Bozeman Police Department went too far in charging Kevane, Kent said that he believed the officers always make their decisions with the child's safety in mind.

"We're not going to take a chance with a child's life safety," said Kent. "We've got some weird people here. We have murderers, and we have a huge meth problem. This is a real city, this isn't Mayberry."

Let Kids Be Kids, Some Say

Naivety about the dangers of the real world, even in a place like Bozeman, Mont., is what gave self-proclaimed "Safety Mom" Alison Rhodes pause about Kevane's decision.

"While I don't think she should have been prosecuted, it does raise questions," said Rhodes. "To entrust a 3-year-old in the care of a 12-year-old, even if it's a small town, is irresponsible.

"There are people out there who are going to grab children and a 12-year-old is not equipped to handle all situations," said Rhodes.

Lenore Skenazy, the author of the book "Free-Range Kids" and the mother made famous after allowing her 9-year-old son to ride the New York City subway system alone, told ABCNews.com that coming up with nightmare scenarios for parents is causing them to raise children who are ill-equipped to fend for themselves.

"Parents are willing to take the risk of driving in a car with their kids and they don't base their judgment on only watching Nascar races," said Skenazy. "But we make our judgments about pedophilia and kidnapping based on what we've seen on the news and on [crime shows]. Those are crammed with the weirdest, saddest anomalies of stories they can gather."

Skenazy said that parents today are led to believe they're doing something wrong if they "don't have almost the same kind of surveillance on their kids that they have in high security prisons."

Kevane, speaking to ABCNews.com on her way to visit her daughter Natalie, who is now 15, at sleep away camp in Maine, said that she still stands by her decision to let her kids go to the mall alone that day, even if she does recognize that her daughter did break the rules by leaving the younger children without supervision when both older girls went into changing rooms.

"Did she make a mistake? Yeah, and that happens," Kevane said of her daughter. "But I just felt that my daughter could handle the situation, I really did."

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