A man approached another young girl minutes before he tried to lure a trio of girls into his van on Sunday, Berkeley police said, making that five attempted child abductions in the city over the last month.
Police believe the attempts are all being orchestrated by the same "scruffy-faced" man.
Berkeley parent Janice Lin said the situation is quite "scary," and she talked to her two children about staying safe while walking around their Elmwood neighborhood. "It's a mom's worst nightmare to have your kid abducted," she said.
Maya Glenn said she isn't taking any chances. She's walking alongside her daughter 7th grade daughter to nearby Willard Middle School and teaching her to be more alert. "It's worth the extra time," she said. "It makes her feel safer too." Her daughter, Leila, said that she's not staring at her phone on her walk, which she often does, so that she can be "aware of what's around me."
Police said that they learned on Wednesday of the second attempted kidnapping, which occurred just before 6 p.m. on Sunday near College Avenue and Webster Street. The young girl, who police say was not harmed, was in the same area where three girls reported that a man had followed them and told them to get in his van at around 6:15 p.m.
Witnesses in the newly revealed case were also able to provide information about the suspect.
He is described as being in his mid 20s to early 30s with dark hair and a "scruffy face." Witnesses said the van was a black, full-sized cargo van without side or rear windows. Earlier reports had pegged the car as a dark-green or blue minivan.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Coats said the girls “used excellent personal safety habits” by promptly getting in touch with authorities.
Similar attempted kidnappings in Berkeley were reported on Sept. 18, when a man matching the suspect’s description allegedly tried to coerce three students to get into his dark-colored van on two separate occasions near Willard Middle School on Telegraph Avenue.
Given the increase in attempted abductions, the Berkeley Police Department has been coordinating with the Berkeley Unified School District to recommend safety measures and to share information, Coats said. She added that police would be doing extra patrols in the area. Neighboring Oakland Unified School District officials also have been getting out to parents through emails and automated calls.
But Willard Middle School parent David Lerman said a lot of parents have been "extraordinarily unhappy with a lack of action by both the district and the city to improve security around here. For a day or two, we saw some police patrols. Bot honestly, have you seen a police car go by here? No."
Berkeley police are asking people to be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and to call 510-981-5900 if they have any information related to these cases.