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Portland Police issue 'Stranger Danger' alert for Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood

by: DAVID F. ASHTON - SE 18th & RexPolice were dispatched to the area of S.E. 18th Avenue and Rex Street at 4:15 p.m. on the afternoon of April 23, on a parent’s phone call of suspicious activity in the area.

On the way, officers were told the 9-1-1 caller was reporting a “creepy man”, driving a silver four-door sedan, and that the vehicle left in an unknown direction. “Officers checked the neighborhood but did not locate the vehicle,” said Portland Police Bureau (PPB) Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson.

“At the scene, officers spoke to an 11-year-old girl, who told police that she was outside playing when a stranger parked his car facing westbound on the corner of 18th and Rex, and got out of his vehicle.

“The girl told police that he walked towards her and asked her how old she was and what her name was, so she ran away and told her dad what happened,” Simpson related. The girl described the man as a white male in his 30s, short brown hair, no facial hair or glasses, wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Although no crime of any sort had been committed in the incident, the police dutifully issued the alert.

Calls ‘Stranger Danger’ an outdated term

Seeing this release, City of Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement East Portland Crime Prevention Specialist Teri Poppino talked about it with THE BEE.

Poppino has solid credentials on this topic, being a former Portland Police Officer and the mother of two boys; she has taught classes on keeping children safe from predators for more than a decade

“First, for the girl to say this guy was ‘creepy’, that's good enough for me!” Poppino began. “But, ‘Stranger Danger’ is an outdated term which frequently causes confusion between adults and kids,” she added.

Adults have an idea of what constitutes a “stranger”, but children are much more literal. “If [an unknown] person tells a child his name, and says he’s looking for his lost puppy, Fido, most children will not consider him a stranger.”

Usually, adults who molest children are people known to them, and are people to whom the parents have given permission to have access children: Faith leaders, club leaders, coaches, friends' parents or older siblings, mothers' boyfriends, and family members, Poppino enumerated.

“So, although this incident captures our attention, please be mindful of every person who has access to your kids. Pay attention to their behavior, not just their stranger/acquaintance status.”

· If an adult clearly would rather hang around with your kids instead of other adults, that's a red flag.

· If anyone seems too good to be true, they probably are. Saying things like Go ahead and go grocery shopping, hes fine with me! is a red flag.

There are some predatory adults, Poppino pointed out, who try to trick kids by asking them for help, or give them directions, for example. Alert parents know that these people should actually be asking other adults for this type of assistance, not kids.

Ideas to help kids safe from predators

· Keep your eyes open and keep talking with your kids. Let them know that most people in the world are good people and care about children.

· Tell your children that its OK to say No! to an adult. If you talk with your kids ahead of time, they'll be better able to recognize behavior that might be risky.

· Check in with your kids periodically to see if they've gotten that Uh-oh or creepy feeling when theyre around anyone. Keep the lines of communication open.

“You won’t scare your kids,” Poppino concluded, “if you talk about it in a matter-of-fact way, like you would about traffic safety, or what to do if the smoke detector goes off.”

The Portland Police Bureau would like to hear from anyone with information about this person or any similar occurrences in Portland. Anyone with information can send it to HYPERLINK "mailto: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. " This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , reference Portland Police Bureau Case #13-32378.