After a near three-month absence of such incidents that received extensive media attention, a Chandler 12-year-old girl was approached Friday afternoon by a man in a white pickup truck offering her candy before she was able to run away.
While police are labeling some of the incidents over the past few months simply as suspicious, they also are reminding parents not to let their children walk alone.
"Parents need to have that talk with their kids about stranger danger," said Sgt. Joe Favazzo, a Chandler police spokesman. "We want parents to let their children know that they need to walk in groups, and that somebody should be waiting on them to know they need to get to a destination by a certain time."
In Friday's case, the girl was walking alone along Appleby Road toward Alma School Road when the man in the pickup truck offered her candy. Unlike earlier incidents between August and October, the man stayed inside his vehicle while speaking with the girl.
The girl did the smart thing: She did not approach the truck, and after the man offered her candy a second time, she ran away and the man drove off.
The incident was the sixth such one in the city during the school year which has involved seven children between the ages of eight and 13 targeted by a potential predator trying to lure children close to a vehicle. In prior incidents from Aug. 30 to Oct. 13, a man approached children from an alley near Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary School and chased them.
The first incident involved a 13-year-old girl, who, on Aug. 30, was walking alone on her way to school near Hartford and Shannon streets that morning when a man got out of his vehicle parked in the alley and grabbed her by the hair before she was able to get away.
In that case, the girl, who said she has never seen the man before, described the suspect as a Hispanic male in his 20s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 160 pounds. He has short dark hair and a light mustache with a goatee. He was wearing a short sleeve black shirt, black pants and black work boots, according to the girl.
The man was last seen driving an older model brown sedan with tinted windows.
Then, the following evening, a 14-year-old boy and his 11-year-old sister were approached by a man who got out of a tan four-door sedan with its lights off as they were walking near Dobson Road and Galveston Drive. The children were on their way to a church event less than two miles away from where the first incident happened.
Police say the girl felt the situation was unsafe and grabbed her brother's hand as she started running away from the area. The suspect and vehicle descriptions they gave police were similar to the first incident.
In the last known incident about 3:45 p.m. on Nov. 15, a boy walking home from school was nearly abducted by a man in a black van near Comanche and Macaw streets, but managed to run to safety. That incident also was near a school, Tarwater Elementary.
When the boy refused to get inside the van, the suspect then ordered the him to get in the vehicle. The boy then ran towards his older brother, who was about 100 feet away before the suspect drove away.
The suspect in that incident is described as a white male, about 30 years old, with brown hair cut short and a goatee, wearing a black T-shirt, sunglasses, and a tattoo on his left arm.
Although police are investigating whether the man in Friday's incident could be the same one from the earlier ones, they do not believe at this time that he is.
"Be vigilant, and do not lose sight of the fact that there are predators out there," Favazzo said.
Anyone with information on any of the cases can call Chandler police at (480) 782-4130.
Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org