Two children were nearly kidnapped in the evening hours of Saturday, January 18, 2014. Real names have been withheld at the request of the family.
A mother and father took their two sons to the Pleasanton River Park. The mother said that while her children played in the playground and their parents looked on, two boys, estimated to be 12 and eight years old, arrived. According to the mother, the youngest of the pair ask her six year old if he wanted to play hide and seek.
While the mother watched, the three boys moved towards a silver minivan, with its side sliding door smashed out and covered with black plastic sheeting, parked next to the family’s Jeep. The mother alleges that the younger child encouraged her six year old to go with him towards the van and the oldest of the pair had his hand on her son’s back.
The mother says she then ran to retrieve her six year old and took him away from the vehicle. The mother says she saw a young woman in the driver’s seat of the mini-van, and an older man was sitting on the passenger side.
Another mother had arrived at the playground with her three children while this was occurring. After the first mother took her own child back, the 12 and eight year old then asked a child of the newly-arrived mother if they wanted to play hide and seek, and allegedly herded that child towards the mini-van as well.
The mother said she intervened again and took that child away from the boys and back to the parent. She explained to the mother what had just happened to her son.
The mother called her husband over and explained the situation to him and she says he tried to get the license plate of the mini-van. Before the license number could be recorded, the driver flashed the mini-van’s lights, the two boys got into the van, and the young woman drove off.
The Pleasanton Police Department says that the first mother described the young woman in the silver minivan as “Hispanic” and “dirty looking, with faded dirty blonde highlights.” The mother gave this description of the male passenger to Pleasanton PD as well: “he was a heavy set, possibly Hispanic male with a scruffy face, and also looked very dirty and in his late 30’s or early 40’s.” Pleasanton PD says that they “had not received any calls regarding this van till notice of this incident.”
Pleasanton Police Department offered a few tips for parents regarding their children’s safety on their Facebook Page:
1. Stranger danger- A stranger can be anyone. They can look like someone’s mother, brother, grandpa. They do not necessarily have to look scary. Explain to your children that anyone they do not know is a stranger.
2. Be Aware of Surroundings Teach your children to always be aware of their surroundings. Never play near vehicles, walk up to vehicles, or stop and answer questions of someone who may be asking directions, or help with finding their puppy etc. (An adult would never ask a child for help in directions or looking for their puppy.)
3. Have a Plan of action- Should your child be approached, teach them to run, yell and tell. Teach them to get to the nearest parent, officer in uniform or even find another mom there with her children to ask for help. Make sure they know to run away from the direction the person is trying to get them to go. If they are grabbed teach them to fight, struggle, kicking yelling and any other way to prevent the actor from taking them and help draw attention to them.
4. The Parent’s Role- Most importantly parents, know where your children are. Have a plan in effect should you become separated. Teach your child what to do. Role play situations that place your children in scenarios and use that time to teach them how to react. It takes seconds for something to go horribly wrong. Children are quick and their mind set is innocent. They often will divulge information about their name and where they live before you know it.
5. Contact Authorities Immediately- Anytime you see a vehicle, person(s), or anything that does not look right immediately call the authorities. We are all equipped now days with cell phones. Take down descriptions of vehicle or person(s), license plates, clothing descriptions etc. Take pictures. The time to call for help is right when it happens or just happened. This raises the chances of authorities locating the vehicle and or person(s) and preventing a child’s safety put at risk or dangerous situation to occur.
Pleasanton Police Department also urges citizens to call them “If you see a suspicious vehicle or person(s) around where children are and feel something is not right contact your local authorities immediately. Be prepared to answer questions such as description of vehicle, license plate, how many people, direction of travel, color of vehicle, etc.” They also invite parents to call them if they need guidance on teaching their children to be safe at 830 569-3869.