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Worries spread after a third abduction attempt in Johnson County

Patrols around schools are stepped up. Police don’t think incidents are related.

Updated: 2013-02-06T05:53:52Z

By ROBERT A. CRONKLETON

The Kansas City Star

Police put extra officers on patrol around Johnson County schools and bus stops after a third child in less than two weeks told police that a stranger tried to abduct her.

The reported confrontations, which came from two girls and a boy beginning Jan. 25, involve different descriptions of people and vehicles, so investigators do not believe they are linked. But they have drawn similar reactions from police in Shawnee, Overland Park and Prairie Village.

“We will have stepped up patrols in the area, especially around the opening and closing of schools,” said Capt. Bill Hisle, a Shawnee police spokesman.

The latest incident occurred Tuesday morning when a 14-year-old middle school student on her way to a bus stop told police that a driver stopped near West 80th Street and Glenwood Street. The man, who was holding a gun but didn’t point it at her, told her to get inside his white pickup.

The man left when the girl ran toward her bus stop.

In that incident, police are looking for a man in his 30s who was wearing a dark blue, hooded sweatshirt and wire-rimmed glasses. He also had a trimmed beard and mustache.

Overland Park and Prairie Village police are patrolling the area because the girl attends a Prairie Village school and the incident was close to the cities’ border.

The reports started Jan. 25 when a girl told police that three men tried to abduct her on the way to school. She ran away when they chased her on 67th Street east of Lackman Road in Shawnee. She saw the men leave in a gold sedan with front-end damage to the right quarter panel. Police didn’t have a complete description of the men.

On Feb. 1, a boy said a man got out of an SUV and tried to grab him in the 7400 block of Bond Street in Shawnee. The SUV was a faded red, possibly a Cadillac Escalade or GMC Denali, with tinted windows.

That man was described as black, 28 to 35 years old, 5 feet 10, and 150 to 175 pounds. He was wearing a red, sleeveless shirt, blue jeans and Nike Air Jordan shoes. He had shoulder-length hair in dreadlocks, possibly with beads woven in. He wore a black ball cap backward. He had a scar on his left arm and a tattoo on his upper right arm and may have had some gold caps on his teeth.

“We have no updates or no additional information,” Hisle said. “We haven’t located anybody involved.”

Pam Hale, president of the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA, said the incidents point to the importance of talking to kids about the dangers of strangers.

“In all three cases the children acted appropriately by going and seeking help,” she said. “I think they have done what their parents have told them to do and what the schools have reinforced.”

Hale said she talked again Tuesday to her fourth-grade son about what to do if someone stopped and spoke to him.

“I’ve also told my son we don’t live in fear either,” she continued. “I’ve heard other parents who aren’t letting their kids outside right now, they’re that upset.”

But Hale deems Johnson County safe, and she said she has confidence in the police.

In all three incidents, the schools the students attended broadcast a voice message to parents letting them know about the abduction attempts, said Leigh Anne Neal, a spokeswoman for the Shawnee Mission School District, where the children attended schools.

The messages encouraged parents to review with their children what to do if strangers approach, Neal said. Parents should also have their children walk in groups when possible and should tell them to be aware of their surroundings.

Overland Park police spokesman Gary Mason added that adults should not stop or approach children who are on their way to school.

If someone tries to abduct them, children should draw as much attention to themselves as possible by screaming, yelling or ringing doorbells, Hisle said.

He said parents and those living near bus stops should keep watch for suspicious activity and call police if they see something out of the ordinary.

There have been crimes where people have noticed something suspicious but did not call because they didn’t want to bother police, he said.

“We would rather come 100 times and it not be anything,” Hisle said.

Anyone with information should call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477), Overland Park police at 913-344-8750 or Shawnee police at 913-631-2155.


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