Neighbors in a West Toledo community were on alert Thursday as police searched for a man who allegedly tried to abduct a 15-year-old girl as she walked to school.
It is the fourth report of boy or girl being approached by a stranger in a vehicle in less than two months in the northwest Ohio area.
“It’s scary. It’s in Sylvania. Now it’s over here,” said Becci Okenka of California Boulevard. Ms. Okenka said she often has two granddaughters, 8 and 18 years of age, over at her house, and is concerned for their safety.
Police said the girl in Thursday’s attempted abduction was not injured. There had been no arrests as of late Thursday.
She was walking down Bennett Road approaching California Boulevard about 7:20 a.m. when a minivan pulled up near her, according to police. The man who was driving it asked her if she wanted a ride, police said.
When the girl refused, he "tried to verbally persuade" her to get into the vehicle, according to a police report. The girl then turned onto California, and the minivan followed her, according to police.
Police said that is when a woman who had just stepped out of a nearby house to let out her dogs saw the driver outside the van. At that point, the man took the victim by her arm with one hand and pushed her from the back with the other, police said in the report. The witness, sensing something was wrong, asked the girl if she was OK and when she said no, the woman hurried the victim into her house and called police, the report said.
The suspect is described by police as a Hispanic male, about 5 feet, 4 inches tall and weighing about 120 pounds, with a mustache and a slight beard. He wore a brown coat, a white and blue plaid shirt, and gloves, and spoke with a heavy accent. He may have a facial scar, police said.
The man was last seen driving west on California toward Burnham Avenue. The vehicle was described as a red or maroon minivan, possibly from the year 2003 or 2004, with tinted back windows.
This was the fourth such incident reported since late January. Police have not said the incidents are related.
Most recently, Toledo police were investigating a report by a 14-year-old girl who attends Bowsher High School that she was approached Monday by a white man driving a dark blue vehicle who offered to give her a ride. That incident reportedly occurred on Airport Highway near Fearing Boulevard. She ran away, authorities said.
In Sylvania on Jan. 25, police reported that a man tried to lure a 9-year-old student of Maplewood Elementary School into his vehicle as the boy walked home from school on Maplewood Avenue near Erie Street. The boy reported a man behind the wheel of a white Chevy van asked him if he wanted a ride. The boy then ran off.
Less than two weeks later on Feb. 6, Sylvania Schools officials said a middle-school aged girl was approached on Roberts Road near West Alexis Road in Sylvania Township by a man who was driving a white van. She also ran off.
Detailed descriptions of the drivers in the two Sylvania cases were not given, other than both drivers were white and possibly between 40 and 60 years of age.
Ms. Okenka said she was home when Thursday’s incident occurred and that her dogs were barking at the time. But she had not thought much of it and did not step outside to investigate.
“Maybe I'll start listening to them now,” she said.
Contact Mike Sigov at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-340-3708, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.