By Jeff Gallatin
City police and school officials have taken extra safety precautions after three recent incidents in the last two weeks involving adult males in vehicles attempting to contact children.
Officials reported the three incidents as taking place with an 8-year-old boy Sept. 25 on Wolf Road between Walmar and Bradley, an 11-year-old boy Oct. 7 on Dover Center Road near Heinen’s and an 11-year-old girl Oct. 8 at the corner of Douglas and Lake roads.
Detective Lt. Mark Spaetzel said the department continues to investigate the incidents.
“We’ve taken several calls in which we’re checking out the information we received from people,” he said. “It’s good that whenever there is a report of something suspicious and it becomes public, people look for the people or vehicles in the description and then they call in the information.”
In addition to checking out information and leads, Spaetzel said the department is taking other precautions.
“We’re sending more squad cars out around the schools and the areas where children are frequently traveling or playing,” he said.
Referring to the incidents, Spaetzel said the trio of current incidents don’t appear to have any common links with each other or previous incidents in Bay or other communities.
“We’re sending out the information and also talking with other departments,” he said. “There has been no physical contact in any of these instances but have involved unsolicited questions from the adult males to the children. There has been no consistency between the vehicle descriptions or subject descriptions in the three reported instances. Whether these have been ill-advised innocent comments or attempts at solicitation is unclear. However, we encourage parents to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behavior.”
In the Sept. 25 incident, the man was described as a white male, age 35 to 50, driving a dirty older white van, possibly a minivan, which he pulled into a driveway where he asked the boy if he wanted a ride to school. The youngster did not respond and kept walking.
On Oct. 7, a boy told police a male voice in a smaller, blue four-door sedan asked “Hey, do you want a ride?” Due to the tinted windows, the boy did not see the man, but was certain the voice was male. Unlike the other two incidents, which took place in the morning, this one took place at about 3:30 p.m., police said.
In the final incident Oct. 8, a girl said a gray-haired white man in a white SUV asked her, “What is your favorite lollipop? … Mine is grape.”
Bay school district spokeswoman Karen Derby said the schools have had counselors at Normandy and Westerly talk to children at schools about the incidents. In addition, Superintendent Clint Keener sent messages to parents Oct. 3 and 8 detailing the incidents, outlining what the schools and police have done in response, offering safety tips and outlining other potential actions that can be taken, such as signing up for city/police emergency alerts at www.cityofbayvillage.com.
Spaetzel said families can take other precautions as well.
“Parents should discuss safe practices with their children,” he said. “Children should travel together and be aware of their surroundings. Children should also be aware of safe locations along their routes of travel. They should never talk to anyone who approaches them on the street and, if they have a cellphone, should immediately call 911 while leaving the area.”
Spaetzel said anyone with any information should call the police at 440-871-1234.