Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a series of incidents in which several local children were approached by unknowns motorists and offered rides to their schools and homes.
“Police wish to ensure that the community is aware of these three occurrences, and are reminding parents to ensure their children are following basic safety practices to protect themselves,” RCMP Corp. Jen Allan said in a press release.
On Feb. 15, a 13-year-old girl was walking home from school on Highway 4 near the Tseshaht Market when a white pickup truck stopped beside her. The driver, a Caucasian male in his 50s, asked the girl if she would like a ride home. Not knowing the man the girl wisely declined the lift, and the male drove off. The vehicle was described as a white Toyota Tundra truck without a canopy, however no license plate was obtained.
On Feb. 23 at approximately 3:30 p.m., two 10-year-old girls were walking home from Maquinna Elementary on Neill Street when they noticed a white pickup truck with two men in it following them. The truck stopped behind them at one point, then slowly drove by them at which point the male passenger smiled and waved at them.
No words were exchanged but the girls were frightened by this unusual activity.
The two Caucasian males are estimated to be between 30-40 years of age. The driver was wearing a red toque and the passenger a ball cap. The truck was described as a smaller, older white pickup with a canopy and some rust on the body, and again no license plate was obtained.
On Feb. 24 at approximately 7:50 a.m., an 11-year-old girl was en route to school when a vehicle pulled up to her and stopped. The male driver asked her if she wanted a ride, but the girl refused and the driver commented about the wet weather before driving off.
The Caucasian male driver was described as being between 30-40 years of age, with short brown hair, possibly wearing a grey sweater. The vehicle is described as a dark blue sports car with a spoiler on it, and no license plate was obtained.
“It is important to note that in none of these incidents was there an attempt to initiate physical contact with the girls, or threaten them,” Allan said.
“It is, however, concerning when strangers offer rides to young children, no matter the circumstances.”
Children are taught at a very young age not to speak with people they do not know or accept rides from anyone not authorized by their parents. Children are also encouraged to walk with others to and from school, she said.
Allan suggests parents provide, if possible, a cellphone for their children to use in emergency situations.
“Fortunately all of these children safely declined the offers and reported the incidents to adults,” Allan said.
Should any member of the public witness this type of incident, they are asked to obtain as much detail as possible about the vehicle and its occupants, and to attempt to obtain a license plate to provide to police immediately.
If anyone has information about these incidents they are asked to call the Port Alberni Detachment at 250-723-2424 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.