Annapolis on alert in abduction attempts

Children report 4 incidents involving men in a van

February 16, 2007|By Dan Lamothe | Dan Lamothe,Special to The Sun

The same man or pair of men is behind four attempts to abduct children in Annapolis in the past week, including three instances of students walking to or from school, city police said.

"Even if there weren't any abductions, we take it as a serious matter, and so does the school board," said Officer Kevin Freeman, a spokesman for the Annapolis Police Department. "We want to be sure that parents are talking to their kids about safety."

While some of the details the children provided differ, several incidents involved a man or men in a white or gray van with "appliances" and "maintenance" written on the side. The suspects also asked the children to help find a lost puppy.

That was the case in the first incident, at 1:10 p.m. Feb. 7, when a man pulled over to ask a 10-year-old girl playing in front of her home on North Southwood Avenue to help him find his puppy. The girl refused several times before he drove off, police said.

The next day, at 8 a.m., three children, ages 5, 10 and 16, on their way to Tyler Heights Elementary School were approached by two men in a white or gray van on Janwall Street. Police said the students do not remember what the men said, but they felt threatened.

Then around 3 p.m. Monday, an 8-year-old boy walking home from Georgetown East Elementary School was accosted on Victor Parkway by a man driving a work van, police said. The man asked the boy if he wanted a ride, but the child refused. The man then grabbed the boy by the arm, ordering the boy into the van. The boy told police he kicked the man in the leg, broke free and ran back to school. He said there might have been a second man in the van.

The most recent incident was reported Tuesday, when a man driving a white van stopped two boys, ages 5, and 6, who were walking to Mills-Parole Elementary School around 8:30 a.m. at Drew Street and Dominoe Road, police said. The man asked if they wanted a ride to school. After the children said no, he then asked them to help find a lost puppy, police said.

Administrators at the three schools have increased the number of adults standing outside the school and to monitor students as they come and go whenever possible, said schools spokesman Bob Mosier.

The district sent letters to parents on Friday and Tuesday, informing them of the incidents and providing safety tips.

Mosier said the school system's security office is talking with city and county police about whether there is something the district should do to protect student walkers. At this time, there are no plans to add part-time staff to monitor walkers because of budget restraints, he said.

"We'll talk to our crossing guards about keeping an eye out," Mosier said. "Is it feasible for us to put teachers and administrators out to check on students? No. That's not feasible."

Sun reporter Ruma Kumar contributed to this article.

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