Police pull out all stops in search for white van
The owner of a white van, who allegedly tried to lure Tigard children into the vehicle in three separate locations throughout the city has yet to be found. But it's not for a lack of trying, with police putting in extensive personnel hours and resources into the effort.
On Feb. 13, Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine updated the Tigard City Council on attempts to find the white, work-type van whose occupant allegedly tried to get an elementary school-aged student to get inside on Jan. 3. That episode was followed by another similar incident in another part of the city that occurred Jan. 11 and a third episode as well.
McAlpine told the council that her department put a priority on deploying numerous personnel and resources into the search to catch the individual involved.
"(What) I want to assure, not only you but the audience, is that we put a lot of effort into that and it doesn't show in the crime statistics, but there are 191 registered sex offenders in the city of Tigard," McAlpine said. "We checked every address looking for a vehicle that might be similar. We deployed 85 different personnel in a two-week span at all the elementary schools looking for anything suspicious so we took it quite seriously."
As a result, police checked out tips on 41 white vans, McAlpine said.
The initial Jan. 3 incident occurred near Mary Woodward Elementary School, with the second incident occurring in the vicinity of Southwest 93rd Avenue and Inez Street, just blocks away from Templeton Elementary School. Police are not disclosing the location of the final incident in order to ensure the integrity of the investigation if someone is caught and questioned.
Tigard Police Lt. David Frisendahl, who oversaw the investigation, said the department saturated the areas where the van was reported, using officers, detectives and school resource officers to help with the search, going as far as using plain clothes officers to make sure students remained safe.
"We had targeted operations for over eight days," he said, noting that at least 75 hours were devoted cumulatively to the investigation. "We tried to cover all our bases."
In addition to coordinating with the Tigard-Tualatin School District, police also contacted First Student, the district's school bus company, notifying them to be on the lookout for such a van. They also put out alerts statewide.
Frisendahl said pulling out all the stops was important because the youth of the community are extremely important to the Tigard Police Department.
Since there has been nothing new during the initial incidents, officials speculate that the intense investigative efforts may have driven the individual to stop or suspend his efforts.
The suspect in the initial incident was described as a white male around age 30 who had a short, salt-and-pepper-colored beard. The van had Oregon license plates containing the tree emblem and it had a dent in the rear. Also, the student who saw it reported that the windows of the van were tinted and that there was a tarp covering the rear windows.
The child was not injured and he ran to a safe location.