I agree that the same stuff has always been happening - just when I was a kid, we didn't hear about it on the news.
Personally, I was allowed to roam free like the others have mentioned. One time a man drove up to a friend and I and asked us to come over to his car for a minute because he needed directions. I was about in the 5th grade. We walked over and he was holding onto his penis, which was enlarged . . . I'll never forget that we screamed and ran! Another time my little brother and I were on a homemade raft on a pond and some boys started throwing rocks at us. One hit my brother and he fell in the water. I pulled him out and he was ok. But we ran for the apartment and my mom called the police. Another time my sis and I were walking across a field on the way to the market at dusk and some 8th grade boys started walking behind us and yelling out rude stuff. My sister wisely ran ahead to the store but I was too proud to let them see me run. Of course they caught up with me, surrounded me, pushed me around, grabbed my chest and called me "two-backs" (flat in the front, flat in back). They pushed me to the ground where I just huddled until they left me alone. Then I ran to the store. My parents called the police and my step-dad went over to their house and threatened their parents.
This was the 1960's folks and in So. Cal.
I live in a small town now. We just now this year let our son walk over to the river and fish - although I go over there and check on him a lot. He'll be 14 in July.
I'm cautious even though the stats on sexual predators is way less than the media reports nowadays.
Not sure what to tell you. I probably err on the side of caution. Even though I loved having the freedom to explore as a kid. Oh, I forgot one silly episode . . . on the way home from school (yes, we walked home) a girl in my class taunted me with "you are a two-bit whore". I had no idea what a "two-bit whore" meant . . . had to ask my mom.