SWEET HOME, Ore. -Sweet Home Police are warning residents, parents, and children to keep an eye out for strangers in vans attempting to pick up children after receiving two reports last week.
In the first report, a woman reported that her two granddaughters were walking home from Hawthorne School on July 21st, when a red and black van with Washington plates approached them. The van had two male subjects inside. The vehicle pulled over, and the males asked the children if they would like to see puppies inside the vehicle.
The Sweet Home School District sent a letter reporting this incident to local families.
In the second report, a mother said she learned about a similar incident while discussing the district’s letter with her daughter. The girl said a male driving a beige or metallic tan van with a sliding door offered her a ride while walking to school. The girl accepted the ride. During the ride, the male made comments that made her feel uncomfortable, but she was able to exit the vehicle at Sweet Home Junior High.
She described the interior of the vehicle as unkempt, and the seats were torn. The seats may have been made of leather material, and the interior stank of moldy food.
The girl described the male as in his 50s or 60s with a darker complexion, brown graying hair, moles on his face, and a 5-o’clock shadow. He was heavyset with several double chins, and he was wearing a brown shirt and dark bottoms. She was not sure whether he was wearing pants or shorts. The girl said she could smell body odor. He spoke English well and had no accent.
“It is not clear if these two reports are connected,” said Police Chief Jeff Lynn. “At this point, we’re asking for the public’s help and ask that anyone with information contact us as quickly as possible."
“While child abduction cases involving strangers are rare, less than 1 percent of abductions, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they can and do occur. We recommend that parents teach their children to stay out of vehicles with strangers. Have that talk with your children. Meanwhile, we’ll work on locating these vans and their occupants.”
Anyone with information should contact the Police Department at (541) 367-5181.
TIPS FOR CHILDREN:
- Stay away from strangers.
- Stay away from anyone who is following you on foot or in a car.
- Run and scream if someone tries to force you to go somewhere or push you into a car.
- Memorize a secret word. Parents should tell children not to go anywhere with anyone unless that person also knows the secret word.
- Adults shouldn’t ask children for help with directions or finding a puppy or kitten, for example. Children should tell the adult, “Wait here, and I’ll check with my mom or dad.”
- Ask for help when you are lost. If you get lost in a public place, ask someone who works there for help.
- Always ask for permission before going anywhere with anybody. Ask a parent or grown-up in charge before leaving the yard or play area or before going into someone’s home. Never accept any unplanned offers for a ride from someone known or unknown.
- Always tell a parent where you are going, how you will get there, who is going with you and when you will be back. Be home on time or else find a way to contact home directly.
TIPS FOR PARENTS:
- Be prepared with a good description of your child. Have a close-up photo of your child taken every six months. Keep track of and write down details about your child’s appearance, including height and weight, eye color, birthmarks, scars, and identifiable mannerisms, such as hair twisting.
- Have your child fingerprinted. Check with the Police Department for information.
- Stay calm. You are more likely to remember helpful details if you can remain calm.