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Police Warn Of Child Abduction Attempts In Oak Park, Berwyn

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Oak Park Students

Children arrive at school in Oak Park. (Credit: CBS)

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UPDATED 10/26/11 11:03 a.m.

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) - A warning has been issued for parents in the near western suburbs, after a man tried to lure several young children into his ar.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, police say in four separate incidents in Oak Park and Berwyn, the man tried to lure students en route to and from school.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Lisa Fielding reports

Since the incidents, parents in the neighborhood have been drilling reminders not to talk to strangers into their children’s heads, and reminding them to be on guard.

“We’ve talked to our kids a lot about what to do if somebody pulls up next to them, and we’re talking about it again as we’re walking over,” said Rebecca Willard, an Oak Park mother, “and I was honest with them. I told them what happened, because I wanted them to be aware. What we’ve told them all along is that adults don’t need help from children.”
Children seem to have gotten the message.

“I’ll walk away or grab my sister, and run if they try and approach me,” said student Capanilla Lathan.

Capanilla said heard about the attempted abductions on the news Wednesday. He and his sister usually walk to school by themselves, but on Wednesday, their aunt insisted on walking them.

“We have quite a few sex offenders – registered sex offenders – that live here in Oak Park. I actually looked it up myself on the Internet,” said their aunt, Sherece Reynolds. “So it’s actually scary. I just teach them not to talk to strangers.”

The most recent incident happened near Lincoln Middle School, at 6432 W. 16th St. in Berwyn.

The student said a man was sitting in his car and asked for help, then tried to lure the young boy into the car.

The man also approached students in Oak Park in three incidents on Friday of last week, and Monday.

The first incident happened around 3:10 p.m. Friday on Ridgeland Avenue near Hatch Elementary School, at 970 W. Madison St. in Oak Park.

Police say the man was sitting in a vehicle, and tried to strike up a conversation with the student about a nearby dog.

There were two more incidents on Monday morning. Around 7:30 a.m., a student at Longfellow School, at 715 S. Highland Ave. in Oak Park, reported being followed by a car while walking south on nearby Ridgeland Avenue. The car stopped briefly by the school playground before driving away.

An hour later, another child walking south in the 800 block of South Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park was accosted by a driver who sounded his horn and asked if the child needed a ride.

In all four incidents, the students were a safe distance from the vehicles and immediately reported the events to school authorities.

The suspect in all four incidents is described as a white man in his 40s or 50s.

“Anytime an incident like this occurs, you’re obviously concerned about the safety of the students,” said School District 97 communications director Chris Jasculca.

One parent was glad the students all avoided the man and reported the incidents promptly.

“What I was impressed about was that all these incidents, where they may have seemed somewhat benign, were reported by kids, so that says something about what the kids are kind of being taught and what they’re learning,” said Greg Major, an Oak Park father.

Oak Park police are asking parents and children to be extra careful and report any suspicious activity.

Police have also stepped up patrols in the area.

Anyone with information about the incidents or suspicious persons should call police at (708) 386-3800, or email police@oak-park.us.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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