Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is investigating whether four attempted child abductions reported recently in Butler County could be connected to others around the state and, perhaps, even some in West Virginia and Michigan.
In a news release sent Thursday, DeWine reminded parents to talk with their children about how to respond if approached by a suspicious person.
“Our agents are working right now to determine if these cases are connected,” DeWine said, “but regardless of whether these crimes are being committed by one person or multiple offenders, it is a very serious situation.”
The Bureau of Criminal Investigation, which includes the Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons units, issued a statewide alert last week to law enforcement agencies, making them aware of the incidents that have happened in the past several weeks and months.
In each case, the suspect has approached girls and boys between the ages of 9 and 15 while driving a white, window-less panel van, which could be a commercial vehicle, DeWine said. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van. At the time of each incident, the children had all been walking home after school.
If the cases are connected, agents suspect that the individual is someone whose job requires him to travel frequently, DeWine said in the news release.
In Butler County, detectives from the sheriff’s office and Hamilton and Fairfield police departments continue to investigate four reported child abduction attempts in the past four weeks. Authorities said they do not believe the same suspect or suspects are responsible for all the incidents.
One was reported Jan. 28 when a 9-year-old girl was nearly abducted by a man in a white van as she was walking along Heathrow Court around 8 p.m., according to Hamilton police.
A second attempted child abduction happened about 7:20 p.m. Jan. 31 when a man jumped out of a white van on Williams Avenue in Hamilton and began chasing three boys, ages 10, 11 and 13. Two other men were reportedly in a white van while the other chased the boys. The boys were walking home from the New Hope Outreach Center on Pleasant Avenue. In both instances, the children were able to escape unharmed.
Hamilton police said Thursday the incidents remain under investigation.
Fairfield Police Chief Mike Dickey said he believes Fairfield’s case is not connected to the others. In that case, a man tried to entice a child on Resor Road into his car, but the child’s school bus arrived and the suspect left the scene.
“Since these incidents are in multiple jurisdictions, it’s appropriate for a state agency to take a look at all the cases,” Dickey said.
Lt. Mike Craft of the Butler County Sheriff’s Office said there’s been no significant changes in the investigation into an attempted child abduction around 6 p.m. Feb. 4 in the area of Long Drive and Grey Elk Court in Liberty Twp.
In the incident, a 9-year-old boy and his mother reported to sheriff’s deputies that the boy was walking home from a friend’s house when a man in a black vehicle pulled up next to him and tried to lure him into the vehicle using a comic book.
“We’ve beefed up patrols in Liberty Twp. and have gone above and beyond to make it a safe area,” Craft said.
Craft said the sheriff’s office did receive two initial tips into the case that did not yield any helpful information. After the Liberty Twp. attempt, Craft said one of the first calls his investigators made was to Hamilton Police to rule out any connections to their two reported child abduction attempts.
“You never discount these (reports) even if you can’t prove it, because the day you do is the day someone gets hurt,” Craft said.
By Eric Robinette - Hamilton JournalNews, Ohio (MCT) Staff writer Hannah Poturalski contributed to this report.
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