It’s a scary scenario. A vehicle pulls up alongside a youngster and offers a ride. The driver doesn’t just take “no” for an answer. What happens next may depend on what that child’s parents have taught him.
It’s not just a scary scenario – reports of attempted child abductions in the area are on the rise, with a string of reports recently that have local law enforcement officials concerned.Each year, 797,500 children go missing in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. That’s 2,185 each day.So far, no children have been taken in what police are calling “escalating” occurances.The most recent incident was reported on Feb. 28 in the 1400 block of Dewey Avenue in Old Lycoming Township when a man attempted to lure a 12-year-old boy into a van.
The boy was able to run away, but police said the suspect showed a knife and threatened the boy.Such incidents date to last June, police said, when a Mexican working in the city was arrested and jailed for trying to get a 12-year-old girl into his truck.Police are not identifying any suspects or vehicles in the more recent incidents, according to Patrolman Jason Bolt, of the Williamsport Bureau of Police, who also serves as a school resource officer for the Williamsport Area School District.”There’s no consistent theme,” he said.Bolt said there have been reports of both adult men and women trying to lure kids into vehicles.
Suspects have approached both younger children and teens, he added.Charles E. Kiessling Jr., Lycoming County Coroner and chairman of the Lycoming County Safe Kids Network, said that, thankfully, there have been no child abduction deaths here.”When I hear these kind of things, it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” he said.Local law enforcement officials said parents need to talk to their children about being safe.”They need to be the ones who initiate this conversation with their children,” Bolt said, adding that children may not always know what a “stranger” is and that the word may be misleading.He said it’s often a family member or somebody close to the child who attempts to abduct them.
Bolt said that teenagers need to be aware, just the same as younger children.”The older the kids are, that’s not the end of the problem,” he said.Capt. Raymond O. Kontz III of the Williamsport Bureau of Police agreed, noting that teenagers may feel like they are “invincible.”While reports may be increasing, officers said every incident is taken seriously.”Chances are, if they’re going up to one person, they’re going up to other people,” Bolt said.”We need to know about it no matter how slightly suspicious it is,” said South Williamsport Cpl. Carl Finnerty said.The officers stressed that there have been no incidents of attempted abductions at schools when students are dropped off or picked up.Old Lycoming Township Chief William Solomon said that although some reports of child abductions turn out to be false, “we don’t want paranoia to set in either. Sometimes your imagination tends to get away with you.”
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