Area law enforcement agencies are watching their local school much closer after a report of a stranger approaching children at a playground Tuesday, Sept. 11 in Spencer. Spencer Police are searching for a white van driven by an older man who they say attempted to make contact with two students at a school playground. Tuesday's incident is the fourth such report in Northwest Iowa in a two-week period. While there is no evidence to prove a connection, authorities admit it is possible that all four incidents could be related, as the same description of a vehicle has been given in each incident.
According to Chief Mark Lawson of the Spencer Police Department. a grey-haired man with a beard in his 60's or 70's stopped near the t Lincoln Elementary school playground around 12:45 p.m. and motioned two students to approach his vehicle. Two teacher's aides came near at that point and the man left the area.
The vehicle was described as an older white, Dodge Caravan-type mini van, with a dent on the rear passenger side of the vehicle and darkly tinted rear windows.
The description of the van and the man match descriptions given in three other incidents that occurred in Lake Park last week and in Little Rock, as well as an incident three weeks ago in Lakefield, Minn. In those incidents, a gray-haired man allegedly tried to get a 13-year-old girl into his white van in Lake Park on Labor Day. The next day, a 35-year-old woman was approached by a white male in his 60s, also driving a white van, according to the Lake Park Police Department.
The Lyon County Sheriff's Office also reported a 61-year-old woman was trying to enter her home in Little Rock on Sept. 5 when a man grabbed her arm. The man released the woman after she yelled for help. In the Lyon County incident, the suspect was described as a white male, 60 to 65 years old, with graying brown hair and a matching beard, driving an older, dark colored car with a white top.
With the reports of attempted abductions locally and the case of the missing cousins in northeastern Iowa, law enforcement agencies are reminding parents to visit with their children and re-emphasize safety hints.
First and most important is for children to never talk to strangers, and always be aware of their surroundings.
Children should always walk away from suspicious people or vehicles. But, if a child finds themselves in an unsafe situation, they should make as much noise as they can.
If a child has a cellphone, they should carry it with them at all times, and call 911 if they ever feel they are in danger or see something or someone suspicious.
Adults are encouraged to contact their local law enforcement agency if they see vehicles or persons matching the description of the individual in these incidents.