Parents on Sydney's Northern Beaches and the Peninsula are being vigilant after a string of suspected child snatch attempts in just six months.
Police have upped their presence around places of interest such as schools and playgrounds. They have also set up a special Strike Force called 'Navy’ who have been tasked with investigating all activity and incidents of that nature, and organising for extra police presence, usually plain-clothes, around the location of interests.
Their recent reports include:
- A man approaching two boys of around 12-years-old in March who were getting off a bus in Freshwater. Onlookers told police he tried to persuade them to go with him
- Two men approaching a 10-year-old boy in February who was walking home from school in Avalon on a path between Avalon Parade and Central Road
- A man in a white van approaching a 12-year-old girl in Davidson in February on the corner of Sir Thomas Mitchell Road and Twynam Road
- A 13-year-old girl was walking to school on the morning of February 12 via Windsor Parade at North Narrabeen when a middle-aged man jumped out of a green or bronze four-wheel-drive. She quickened her pace but he caught up with her and grabbed her right shoulder with one hand and her left elbow with his other. She managed to swing her arms and escape his clutches
• A 10-year-old boy was being approached by a man in a white van in October as he walked home from school along Wyadra Avenue in Freshwater. He made an inappropriate comment and the child ran away and alerted an adult
• Two women being attacked within just 15 minutes of each other in Dee Why in the early hours of Sunday, February 13, when a man grabbed them from behind and put an item of clothing over their heads. Luckily, both women managed to fight him off and escape to safety.
• In March a man was charged after allegedly performing three acts of indecency in the window of his apartment in plain view of schoolchildren. He was caught by officers from Strike Force Navy.
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Wonders, who is also the crime manager for Northern Beaches Looking After Children (LAC), tells Peninsula Living, 'There has been a spike In recent months of child approaches and incidents pt indecent activity on the Northern Beaches." The men who approached the boy in Avalon has already being discounted, as have a few of the others but at the time of going to press the man approaching the boys on the bus still hasn't been Identified, neither the man who grabbed the 13-year-old girl in North Narrabeen. She described him of being about 170m tall and 50-years-old. with caucasian appearance and short. dark slicked-back hair. The man who attacked the two women in Dee Why also remains at large.
Detective Chief Inspector Craig Wonders says police certainly don't want to scare people, “but encourage the public and parents to be vigilant. Fortunately, many reported offences are found to be an innocent situation once investigated."
Luckily there haven't been any recent confirmed abduction, which he believes is down "to the education of parents and community leaders. We promote and ask parents to teach their children what to do when approached by strangers and reinforce our 'Safe people, Safe Places' message."
Police Safety Tips for children
Police encourage parents to discuss the 'Safe People, Safe Places' messages with their children, including:
• Make sure your parents or another familiar adult knows where you are at all times
• Always walk straight home or to the place you are heading. Walk close to busier roads and streets, or use paths where there are lots of other people
• Know where safe places are - a shop, service station, police station, library or school. If you are ever frightened, you should go to one of these places and ask them to call the police
• Learn about safe adults you can look for and talk to if you need help -police officers, teachers at school, adults you know and trust
• Don't talk to people you don't know and never get into a car with someone you don't know. If a car stops on the side of the road and you don't know the person inside, do not stop
• If you are scared and can use a phone, call 000 and tell them you are scared
• If someone tries to grab you, yell out, "Go away, I don't know you". This lets other people know you have been approached by someone you don't know