ARVADA, Colo. - Three weeks before Jessica Ridgeway disappeared in Westminster, Arvada Police and Jefferson County schools sent a letter to parents warning them about two "stranger danger" incidents.
In the two incidents in mid-September, Arvada police said an eight and a nine-year-old were nearly abducted.
According to Arvada police, around 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 9, a child was walking near Quaker Acres Park, near 74th Place and Terry Court, when someone tried to entice the child into a car with candy.
Another elementary school student reported a similar incident happening around 5:40 p.m. on Sept. 12, in front of Fitzmorris Elementary School at 62nd Avenue and Independence Street.
"Both of them said they were offered candy to get into the vehicle. In both incidences, they knew to run and tell an adult," said Arvada police spokeswoman Jill McGranahan.
Fitzmorris and other Arvada-area Jefferson County schools sent home letters with students. One parent told 7NEWS she also received an automated phone call.
According to police, the two children described a white man with brown hair. They said he had no facial hair or glasses. His age range is between 20 and 40.
The suspected vehicle is a royal blue 4-door sedan.
Another incident Oct. 4
Arvada police said a white van approached children in Arvada on Oct. 4, one day before Ridgeway vanished in Westminster.
Malachi Martinez said a white van tried to get the attention of his children as they walked home from Lawrence Elementary last Thursday. Arvada Police confirmed the incident was reported.
"It felt like we were getting followed by the car," said Raina Camacho, a sixth-grader at Lawrence.
"We started running and the car turned around the other street and parked in front of us," said Camacho's sister, Sierra, a fifth-grader. "We went to the fire department, but we saw the fire truck leaving. So we ran back to school. We told the principal what happened and she called the cops."
Within two hours, the principal of Lawrence made a recorded phone call to parents:
"This is Beth Morganfield principal of Lawrence Elementary. I wanted to make you aware of a situation that happened after school today. Four girls were walking north on Zephyr. A white van was parked on the side of the road. The girls walked on and the van followed them. The girls became nervous and returned to school."
"We called the police who are now investigating. The girls believe there were two people in the van but could not give a description. The description of the van does not match any other suspicious vehicle report. The occupants of the van did not make contact with the girls. The police wanted to remind parents to speak to their children about safety and if their children have any concerns about suspicious vehicles or persons to let their parents or the school know. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me tomorrow at school."
Lawrence Elementary is about eight miles from Ridgeway's home.
7NEWS has learned a third September report of a suspicious, slow-driving vehicle was never shared with the public because after two days of investigating it was found to be a misunderstanding.
"(A man's) dog had gotten out of the yard and he was driving around looking for his dog," said Arvada Police Department spokeswoman Jill McGranahan.
Letter Sent To Parents in Sept.
September 13, 2012
Dear (name of school) parents/guardians,
This letter is to make you aware of recent incidents involving “stranger danger” in the Arvada area.
Arvada Police received a report that a child was approached by a stranger offering candy, asking them to get into the stranger’s car. A police report has been filed and they are investigating. There is an additional report of a child being approached by a stranger at Fitzmorris Elementary in Arvada after school. Once again, police are investigating that incident.
We want you to know that student safety is always our top priority and this event reminds us of the importance of talking with your child about stranger danger.
Reinforce safe behaviors with your child and tell them to always be aware of their surroundings.
If a stranger approaches your child, whether it is at school or outside of school, be sure that your child knows what to do: yell or shout, run away and immediately tell an adult. Stress to your child the importance of going straight to school and coming home immediately after dismissal, or leaving the bus stop.
Remind your child that if he/she sees anything suspicious around the neighborhood or school, they need to immediately contact the police department and notify the school.
I know that together, we can help protect the safety of our children. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to call me at 303-982-XXXX.