Updated: January 31, 2012 10 a.m.
Riverside police on Jan. 25 issued a bulletin reporting that a suspicious man driving a van followed a 10-year-old North Riverside girl to Ames School that morning.
According to police, the girl was walking to school in the vicinity of 26th Street and Westover Avenue at around 8:20 a.m. when she noticed a full-size green van, an older model with noticeable rust along the bottom and white striping along the side panels, following her.
The vehicle was driven by a man described as white, between 20 and 40 years of age, with brown or red hair and a goatee of the same color. He was wearing a black or navy blue baseball cap, police said.
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said the man never attempted to make contact with the girl. He didn’t speak with her, get out of the vehicle or attempt to lure her to the van, he said. However, the van reportedly followed the girl all the way to Ames School and went so far as to pull into the school parking lot, Weitzel said.
The girl told police that it was clear to her the man was following her.
“She said when she’d walk slower, the van would go slower. When she walked faster, the van would go faster,” Weitzel said.
Weitzel said there was an increased police presence in the area Thursday morning. Police have been investigating the incident since they were notified of it at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 25.
Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi notified Ames parents about the incident via email on Wednesday afternoon, urging them to remind their children to walk in groups, not to talk to strangers and to report suspicious activity.
“In addition to sending this letter, I will be talking to all Ames students about safety precautions they can take when walking to and from school,” Lieggi told the Landmark on Thursday.
After notifying parents of the incident, five students who attend Hollywood School reported that they had been approached by a man driving a van about three months ago in the South Hollywood section of Brookfield.
Hollywood Principal Mindy Keller forwarded that information to Brookfield police, who interviewed the children individually. While their stories differed slightly, there were some common themes.
In each version of the incident, the children said they were approached by a man driving a green van. Four of the children described the vehicle as a green van, while two said the van had white stripes on it.
All of the children stated that the driver asked them for directions and asked them to come closer to the vehicle. Four of the children also stated that there were at least two other people in the vehicle along with the driver.
A Riverside resident told the Landmark he reported to police that on Jan. 27 he saw a van and driver matching the description given by Riverside police delivering a package to a home on Northgate Road.
A Brookfield woman told the Landmark that she saw a van matching that description at about 8:45 a.m. on Jan. 25, driving northbound on Desplaines Avenue in North Riverside and in Forest Park until it turned onto Roosevelt Road.