CLEVELAND - The Ohio Attorney General has issued a warning to parents after a string of child luring cases that happened across three states, and includes an incident in Cuyahoga County.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said the Crimes Against Children and Missing Persons unit linked several similar incidents across Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan over the last few weeks and months. The cases are reported as possible child enticement and attempted abductions.
DeWine's office said one of the cases was in Parma Heights. Others in Ohio were reported in Sylvania, Junction City and Westerville.
"Our agents are working right now to determine if these cases are connected, but regardless of whether these crimes are being committed by one person or multiple offenders it is a very serious situation," said DeWine in a news release.
The connection made by investigators caused the state to issue a statewide alert to law enforcement agencies.
DeWine said that in each of the possibly-connected cases, a man in his mid-to-late 40s or early 50s approached girls and boys between 9 and 15 years old who were walking home from school. The man was driving a white, windowless panel van, which investigators said could be a commercial-type vehicle. The driver then tries to talk with the children and get them to come into the van.
DeWine said none of the children fell for the enticement schemes.
In the Parma Heights case, the police report said a man in a white cargo van approached a 14-year-old girl on Manorford Drive on Feb. 8 and apparently asked her for sexual favors while he followed her. The girl called her mother when she got home, who then called police. Officers did not find the vehicle in the area.
Investigators said they believe that if the cases are indeed connected, the man could have a job that requires him to travel frequently.
DeWine offered these tips for parents to tell their children:
• Make a commotion; Yell 'No!' or 'Help!'
• Run away immediately.
• Keep a large distance between themselves and a vehicle, if approached by someone in a car.
• Take all suspicious situations seriously; Do not be afraid to hurt a person's feelings by screaming or running.
• If possible, consciously make note of details such as a person's appearance, clothing, vehicle, and license plate.
• Know that it is OK to tell your parents what happened; Do not feel ashamed.
Anyone who has information about these cases or past cases is asked to contact their local police department or Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification at 855-BCI-OHIO.