COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine recently reminded parents to talk with their children about how to respond if approached by a suspicious person.
DeWine made the suggestion today after members of his Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units discovered several similar incidents of child enticement and attempted abductions happening in Ohio, West Virginia, and Michigan.
“Our agents are working right now to determine if these cases are connected, but regardless of whether these crimes are being committed by one person or multiple offenders it is a very serious situation,” said DeWine.
If approached by a stranger, DeWine suggests that children:
• Make a commotion; Yell ‘No!’ or ‘Help!’
• Run away immediately.
• Keep a large distance between themselves and a vehicle, if approached by someone in a car.
• Take all suspicious situations seriously; Do not be afraid to hurt a person’s feelings by screaming or running.
• If possible, consciously make note of details such as a person’s appearance, clothing, vehicle, and license plate.
• Know that it is OK to tell your parents what happened; Do not feel ashamed.
DeWine also said that parents should:
• Walk to and from school with their children or arrange for them to walk with friends.
• Know the route their children take to and from school.
• Walk with their children along the route and identify safe places to go if an incident occurs.
Last week, agents with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which includes the Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units, issued a statewide alert to law enforcement to make them aware of the incidents that have happened in the past several months and weeks.
In each case, the suspect has approached girls and boys between the ages of nine and 15 while driving a white, windowless panel van, which could be a commercial vehicle. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van.
At the time of each incident, the children had all been walking home after school.
“Luckily none of these children gave in to these attempts,” said DeWine. “They knew exactly what to do.”
If the cases are connected, agents suspect that the individual is someone whose job requires him to travel frequently.
The suspect is described as:
• White Male
• Mid to late 40s or early 50s
• 5’8” - 5’9”
• Brown hair
• Possible mustache
• Wearing a baseball hat with glasses or sunglasses
Anyone involved in a situation of this nature should immediately contact their local law enforcement agency. Anyone with additional information regarding previous crimes similar to the described incidents should also contact their local police or BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO.
The Attorney General also reminds parents to be aware of sex offenders living in their neighborhoods. Ohio’s sex offender registry is available on the Attorney General’s website.