Saturday, February 28, 2004

Make a racket and run from danger, kids told



By David Eck
Enquirer Contributor

FAIRFAX - Generally soft-spoken, police Lt. Steve Kelly was talking to second- and third-grade students here Friday when suddenly he screamed: "Help me! Help me!"

The kids jumped up, their attention focused on the officer.

That was exactly the point.

Kelly instructed the students to scream as loud as possible if a stranger walks up to them, grabs them or tries to lure or entice them into a car.

"You want to make a scene," he said. "The suspect will go away because he doesn't want that confrontation, either."

Kelly also told the kids at Fairfax Elementary School what a real police officer wears, what kind of identification they have and what kind of vehicle they drive.

The program lasted about 45 minutes and comes in the wake of recent reported child enticements and people impersonating police officers.

In the last two weeks:

• A man was arrested Thursday after two teen girls told police he tried to get them inside his truck in Cleves. Several knives and an ax were found in the truck, police said.

• A 15-year-old girl reported that the driver of a car pulled up while she was waiting at a bus stop in Elmwood Place on Feb. 11 and asked if she wanted a ride. The girl ran, and the man has not been found.

• A woman reported that a man, dressed as a police officer, stopped her near Norwood High School on Feb. 14. The man reportedly was driving a car with red and blue lights on the dash. He has not been found.

• A man was arrested last week after authorities said he impersonated a police officer in Liberty Township and stopped a driver in Hamilton. Authorities said he lured the driver into his car, drove off and sexually assaulted her in rural Butler County.

Fairfax Police Chief Rick Patterson said such incidents are unusual in Greater Cincinnati.

"We really haven't had any problem to speak of up until recently," he said. "It just hit."

Officers say the reports appear credible.

"We want the kids to know it's OK to run away," he said. "It's OK to scream. Our school gets priority over everything else."

Fairfax Elementary students said Friday that their parents have talked to them about safety. The children said they are aware of the reports of child enticement.

"For some reason, people are starting to kidnap and hurt people," said Alyssa Nichting, a Fairfax third-grader. "I don't get it."

Most of the students understood Kelly's lesson.

"The main thing," third-grader Jade Weber said, "is always run away from the bad guys."

E-mail daveck@fuse.net




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