Students approached in separate incidents while walking to and from school

by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Scappoose Police have ramped up patrols near Scappoose schools since the initial alleged abduction attempt. A sixth-grade Otto Petersen Elementary School student notified the Scappoose Police Department Monday, April 28, of an abduction attempt during the student’s walk home from school.

While the student ignored an offer for a ride from a man in a red car and returned home safely, the incident marks the fourth Scappoose elementary school student to report an abduction attempt involving a red car within a one-week span.

Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe said Tuesday that although the abduction attempts have only been witnessed by students, he is taking them seriously.

“We have yet — the police or the staff — to see this vehicle. So far, it’s just some kids. That’s not to belittle the report,” Jupe said, emphasizing his latter statement. “I’m really interested in the safety of the kids, but I’m getting a bit concerned that we’re reporting on something that’s really unseen at the moment. We’ll keep looking and keeping the kids alert.”

Lt. Norm Miller of the Scappoose Police Department said — among other measures he said he preferred not to comment on — the department has increased its patrols around the school zones. Miller was also able to provide a more detailed description of the suspect and his vehicle.

“It’s a red car, low to the ground and the back window is broken — potentially held together with window tinting material,” he said. “He is a white male in his 30s.”

Miller said due to a language barrier between the sixth-grader and the suspect, the department was unable to gain more information.

“The only thing she said she could understand was the guy said, ‘car,’” Miller said.

Two Otto Petersen Elementary students and one Grant Watts Elementary School student were also targeted by men who asked them to enter their car April 23 and April 24, according to a letter to district parents from Jupe.

Otto Petersen Elementary students reported to Principal Kelly Powell that they were approached by two men in a red car on their way home from school on the evening of April 23, Jupe wrote in the initial letter. Jupe said the students ignored the calls and kept walking until the men drove away.

A Grant Watts Elementary student also reported he was asked to enter a red car on his way to school on the morning of April 24. That student also ignored the request and continued walking, Jupe wrote.

While earlier reports suggest two men were involved in the abduction attempts, Miller said the department is searching for a single suspect.

Jupe requested in letters to district parents they coach their students to be wary of such invitations, and to report suspicious activity to a trusted adult.

“Please repeat any coaching and warnings to your children not to make contact with strangers on the way to or from school,” Jupe wrote in a Monday letter to school district parents. “Scappoose police will be on alert tomorrow morning as students walk to school.”

“We want the public, if they see or hear anything, to call us or call 911 and give information,” Miller said. “They should sit down with their kids and talk about stranger danger. The police department is willing to help with that also.”

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