Police in a Chicago suburb are crediting two teen-age girls with helping them arrest a man who is clearly a danger to public safety. This criminal had the audacity to offer a ride to a couple of teen-age girls who were walking home in a snowstorm with no coats.

That’s right. The “stranger danger” worry warts have scared children so much that even a reasonable offer is suspicious, so the teens called police and reported his tag number. What’s even crazier is that police and media are treating the girls as though they did the right thing and that the Good Samaritan was the troublemaker. Take a look at the lede on this story about the incident from a Chicago television station:

Two 13-year-old suburban girls are being credited with helping police catch a man who offered them a ride home.

Think about that for a second. These girls are being “credited” with helping police “catch” a man who … did what? … offered them a ride home.

There is no allegation that Rodney Peterson did anything other than offer a ride. There’s no allegation that he had any bad intent. He didn’t try to entice them into a car. He simply asked how far they had to walk and if they needed a ride. One of the girls said, “We’re OK,” and waved him on, so he left. And that — in the insane world where we live — is “disturbing the peace.”

Peterson is a married father of three — with a fourth child on the way — and he and his wife told CBS 2 in Chicago that they frequently help people, because they see it as living out their Christian faith. Police say, though, that offering help isn’t the right thing to do. The police chief of Barrington said if you suspect that someone needs help, you’re supposed to call police instead of offering to help yourself. I doubt it’s the conscious intent of this kind of foolishness, but the effect is to make people feel more and more dependent on their “official representatives” — those of the state.

You would think that once everyone agreed that Peterson didn’t have any bad intent, there would be no charges, but you’re trying to be too reasonable. No, Peterson was charged with disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty and was fined $400. He was also placed under court supervision for two years and ordered to have no contact with the two teens or their families.

In the grand tradition of victims everywhere who are forced to confess to their “crimes” — and are made to feel guilty — Peterson says he doesn’t blame the teens or the police, even if his well-meaning actions were badly misinterpreted. You have to wonder, though, whether he’ll be offering help to others in the future.

I don’t wish anything bad on anyone, but there would be poetic justice if those girls needed help in the future — but nobody stopped to help because that’s not their job.

Note: A reader points out that in a later story, police dispute Peterson’s contention that there was a snow storm and that the teens didn’t have on adequate coats. It’s interesting to me that police didn’t dispute him in earlier comments, but even if we assume that they’re correct, my guess is that Peterson exaggerated the circumstances when police showed up at his door in order to make his actions seem more understandable to police. I don’t see anything there to make me doubt the core contention — that he was just offering the teens a ride.