‘Don’t walk alone’

2015-04-30 14:48

“Don’t scream. Don’t shout. Just get in the car.”

These are the words that sent chills down a Maitland girl’s spine on her walk to school recently.

Along Jessica’s* regular route to Holy Cross, a black Mercedes with tinted windows pulled up next to her.

The driver slowed the car to the speed she was walking and rolled down one of the tinted windows to speak to her.

“Don’t you want to get into my car? To be my friend?” he asked.

Jessica said no, to which the man offered to buy her airtime.

When she declined that, he ordered her into the car.

“He made a U-turn and I took my chance and started running. As I turned a corner, he also turned it and started chasing me,” she says.

She ducked around another corner and managed to lose the vehicle.

Maitland Community Police Forum spokesperson Graham Daniels confirms the incident.

“There have been reports of a black car, a Mercedes Kompressor, in the area trying to lure children. The Maitland Neighbourhood Watch was notified of this after a young girl was being lured into the car with the promise of airtime. The Neighbourhood Watch members responded to the incident, but the vehicle could not be seen,” he says.

The vehicle was also seen in Kensington near a school, Daniels says.

The driver has reportedly been seen in Table View as well, although this could not be confirmed at the time of going to print.

Parents have now been warned to keep a close eye for predators targeting children.

Daniels warns that children should never walk to school alone and are safer in groups. He also suggests establishing dedicated routes that children must walk so that pa­rents know where they are.

Daniels is also calling on the community to be extra vigilant during the times children are walking to and from school. “Keep an eye on these routes for any suspicious vehicles,” he says.

Last year a Kensington primary school child was nearly abducted after a man tried to lure a young girl into his car, saying her mother had asked him to fetch her.

The Kenmere pupil was waiting for her taxi after school and reported the incident to the driver. Attempts to find the suspect were unsuccessful (“Stranger danger resurfaces”, People’s Post, 8 July 2014).

Safety of pupils become challenging during their commute to school, says education department spokesperson Jessica Shelver, as the department cannot take sole responsibility for the safety of pupils, especially when they are outside the school grounds.

Parents need to teach their children not to approach unknown vehicles, she says.

“Explain to your children that a stranger is someone you hardly know or do not know at all.

“People whom they see frequently in their neighbourhood or community, but do not know, may be just as much a stranger as someone they have never met before or have never seen.”

Jessica attempted to report the incident, but says she was told there was nothing the police could do as she had not been injured. Maitland police had not responded to People’s Post at the time of going to print.

But the incident has left Jessica shaken.

“I’ve stopped walking to the shops or to friends, and my parents drive me to school now,” she says.

“If I see that man again I’ll know him immediately. It’s a face I’ll never forget.”

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