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Pakenham, Casey parents on edge over child kidnap fears

PARENTS are on high alert in Melbourne's southeast after a spate of child abduction attempts.
Local schools and police have told parents in the Pakenham and Casey regions to take extra precautions, and warning parents to keep a lookout for a white van.
In the most recent incidents, two girls were approached and offered lifts by a driver of a white van or ute last Wednesday, February 23.
In one incident along Racecourse Rd North and Broadhurst Rd, the driver is believed to have driven on to the footpath before offering the 15-year-old a lift.
Then in Henty St nearby, a 17-year-old schoolgirl was approached and also offered a lift.
Police say in both cases, the man appeared to be of Pacific Islander appearance, wearing a black T-shirt and with a distinctive tattoo on his right arm.
The previous day on Tuesday, February 22, a 13-year-old boy was approached by a man in Melville Park Drive, Berwick, about 4pm, in the second abduction attempt in that region in a month.
The man told the boy he needed help looking for a missing dog, the Berwick Leader reports.
“When the boy refused, the man started to get out of his car, but then claimed he was only joking after the boy threatened to call the police,” a police spokesman said.
The would-be abductor was about 25 to 30 years-old, thin and of Caucasian appearance.
Police said he had a buzz-cut hair style, and wore a black top, jeans and sunglasses.
The suspect drove a black sedan, possibly a Holden VT Commodore.
Police do not believe that incident is linked to another abduction bid in Narre Warren on January 24, in which a man tried to snatch a 10-year-old boy from the Bunnings car park.
The latest incidents have parents keeping a close eye on the streets, with social networks being used to alert the community to be on the lookout.
Scores of posts and text messages have been passed between parents in recent days to alert others of the danger.
Parents at Pakenham schools said school authorities had issued written warnings this week for parents to be on guard.
“It’s quite scary because there’s two white vans that I constantly see outside the school,” one parent, Sue, told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell program.
Today, police investigated two separate sightings of a white van parked near schools, but a short time ago a police tweet described them as "non suspicious".
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

Matthew Schulz - Herald Sun,03-3-2011

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