EUCLID, OH -- Police are warning parents and children in Euclid to be on alert as they investigate three attempted child abductions that were reported over the past three weeks.
The latest incident was reported to police Thursday morning. Another was reported Tuesday evening and the first of the three on the afternoon of September 3.
Wednesday evening, Euclid school administrators sent out an automated phone message to all parents in the district. According to Euclid police Sergeant Mitchell Houser, the incidents have involved boys and girls between grade school and middle school age.
Each told investigators that a man in a white van tried to lure them into his vehicle by offering them a ride or telling them to get in. In every case, the child refused and got away. Police say in one instance, the man got out of the van, but never tried to actually grab a child.
All of the incidents happened within a three to four block area around East 200th and East 222nd Streets.
"It was like, five of us whose phones rang with this message," said concerned parent Alicia Smith.
During the phone message to parents, school administrators urged them to speak to their children regarding stranger safety as well as reminding them of the family safety plan.
"It was a thought that this was really serious, so me talking with my children and knowing that a few of their friends have been approached by this white van, I just had to make sure to reiterate to them to pay attention," said Smith.
Police describe the suspect as a man in his 40s or 50s, light-colored unkempt hair, a scruffy beard and in one case, wore a green baseball cap.
The van is described as an older work or panel van with silver or gray bumpers. It had either no windows or white painted windows in the rear cargo area.
Some children also reported seeing blue writing, a picture of a sun and two ladders on the roof rack. Detectives also say in one case, two other men wearing hooded sweatshirts pulled over their heads were with the suspects.
"Although it did not happen on school property and although it did not happen during the school day, we wanted to make sure that we were giving our community a public safety announcement," said Audrey Holtzman, marketing and public relations specialist for Euclid City Schools.
"I was alarmed, but after I listened to it and my family listened to it, I was actually glad I was notified," said parent, Robert Pruitt.
School officials say they do not want to panic the community, but they do want everyone to be aware.
"I know that suburbs aren't exempt from that, so I'm just hoping it's not something that's a trend here; that it's really just a fluke and we won't see it again," said Pruitt.
Investigators say in two of the cases, the two or three children involved were the same and described the same man both times.
Police say the incident from this past Tuesday involved a different group of children, but their description closely matched the other group.
Euclid police encourage parents and guardians to reinforce safety practices with their children. Residents are encouraged to report any suspicious activity or any information they have to the police department.