COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine reminded parents Thursday to talk with their children about how to respond if approached by a suspicious person after a series of near abductions across multiple states.
The attorney general's comments are a response to findings by members of his Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons unit. The unit discovered several similar incidents of child enticement and attempted abductions happening in Ohio, West Virginia, and Michigan. Two of the incidents happened in Hamilton and at least one other occurred in Fairfield.
"Our agents are working right now to determine if these cases are connected, but regardless of whether these crimes are being committed by one person or multiple offenders it is a very serious situation," said Attorney General DeWine in a press release from his office.
Last week, agents with the attorney general's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), which includes the Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units, issued a statewide alert to law enforcement to make them aware of the incidents that have happened in the past several months and weeks.
According to the press release from the attorney general's office, the suspect in each case has approached girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 15 while driving a white, windowless panel van, which could be a commercial vehicle. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van.
At the time of each incident, the children had all been walking home from school, the press release stated.
Two incidents were reported in Hamilton in late January. One involved three boys walking home from an outreach center who were accosted by a man. The other incident involved a man jumping out from a white van and attempting to abduct an 8-year-old near Fairborn Drive.
On Feb. 14, a Fairfield Middle School student was waiting for her bus on Resor Road at 6:34 a.m. when a white male wearing a hooded sweatshirt approached her from his car and tried to persuade her to get into his vehicle.
"Luckily none of these children gave in to these attempts," said Attorney General DeWine. "They knew exactly what to do."
Attorney General DeWine's office has released the following information about a possible suspect or suspects in the case:
If the cases are connected, agents suspect that the individual is someone whose job requires him to travel frequently. In each case, the suspect has been a white male in his 40s or early 50s who is around 5 feet 9 inches tall, with brown hair, possible mustache and wearing a baseball hat with glasses or sunglasses.
Anyone involved in a situation of this nature should immediately contact their local law enforcement agency. Anyone with additional information regarding previous crimes similar to the described incidents should also contact their local police or BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO.
The attorney general has provided the following tips for parents to help them talk to their children about dealing with strangers.
If approached by a stranger, Attorney General DeWine suggests that children:
• Make a commotion; yell "No!" or "Help!"
• Run away immediately.
• Keep a large distance between themselves and a vehicle, if approached by someone in a car.
• Take all suspicious situations seriously; Do not be afraid to hurt a person's feelings by screaming or running.
• If possible, consciously make note of details such as a person's appearance, clothing, vehicle, and license plate.
• Know that it is OK to tell your parents what happened; do not feel ashamed.
Attorney General DeWine also said that parents should:
• Walk to and from school with their children or arrange for them to walk with friends.
• Know the route their children take to and from school.
• Walk with their children along the route and identify safe places to go if an incident occurs.