Parents warned to be on their guard

PUBLISHED: 19:00 13 September 2002 | UPDATED: 12:39 03 March 2010

FAMILIES in west Felixstowe were today told to keep on their guard against possible child snatchers - because the area is the most likely to be targeted.

FAMILIES in west Felixstowe were today told to keep on their guard against possible child snatchers – because the area is the most likely to be targeted.

Parents have been deeply concerned following three incidents in three weeks of men trying to persuade young boys and girls to get into their cars.

And police say that with excellent access to the A14, a busy shopping centre and being densely populated, the area is a prime site for perverts to accost children and try to take them.

One parent – who asked not to be named – told The Evening Star families were "very worried" about the situation.

"I know the mother of the two little girls who were approached and they were very shocked and frightened – everyone just keeps thinking about what happened to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman," said the woman.

"It is so difficult. We don't want to make our children scared of everyone they meet, and we don't want to stop them going out alone because they need to grow up and be more independent.

"But these incidents are really creepy and you want to keep your children with you all the time."

Felixstowe police commander Insp Andy Bushell said: "Each of the recent incidents has been different – in terms of the style of approach, the description of the person and the vehicle involved.

"At the moment that means we have nothing to link them directly, though we are following up leads.

"They have all been in the same area of the town, but that does not surprise me. You would expect a lot of people to be about in a high-density residential area, the A14 is nearby and there is a busy shopping area at Safeway.

"If someone is looking to accost a child, it is probably the easiest and most likely part of Felixstowe they would visit.

"Of course, we have to assume that these were genuine accostings, although there could always be innocent reasons behind them.

"However, I think you would have to be a bit naïve today to choose to stop and speak to a child without a specific reason, such as asking directions, especially in the light of the high-profile cases and publicity about such issues."

He praised all the children approached in the incidents for doing the right thing – refusing to get in the cars, running away and telling parents.

"It seems that the message being pushed by my officers, the schools and parents is getting through. I would still say to parents be vigilant and please let us know as soon as possible if your child reports an incident," he said.

Last week a nine-year-old boy was approached by a man in a white-coloured car as he walked along Grange Farm Avenue. Two weeks earlier a man in a gold-coloured car accosted two girls – aged 11 and 13 – in the same road and asked them if they would like a lift.

Then a few days later a 17-year-old boy was asked to get into a car, believed to be a Peugeot 106, in Coronation Drive after he had walked up the Pram Walk from the Ordnance roundabout.

n Police are also appealing for witnesses after three teenage girls were followed by a man in Trimley St Mary. The man never approached the girls but police say they would like to speak to him to clear up the matter. The man is in his 40s, 5ft 11in tall, short slightly curly hair, wearing a dark adidas waterproof jacket, beige trousers and black boots. Police can be contacted on 01473 613500.

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