ANKENY, Iowa -- Ankeny residents are on edge after a young girl was approached by a suspicious person Friday evening around 7 p.m. in the 3100 block of NE Huntington Lane.
“A girl was out walking her dog and she told the responding officer that she had been approached by a white male with a hat on backwards asking her to get into the car,” said Lt. Brian Kroska.
Kroska said the suspect tried to lure the girl with candy and said if she didn’t get in the car he would chase her, which he did for several steps before she made it home.
Police said the girl described the man as a white male with an elaborate mustache and beard, wearing a backwards hat, possibly with a snake tattoo on his arm. The suspect is said to have been driving a small, black SUV with shiny rims.
“Without a license plate, it does make it more difficult, like I said, we are checking security cameras in the area, and if we can find cameras at gas stations we are looking there, as well. So I wouldn’t say that it’s impossible that we won’t find this person, but with more information, with help from the community, it increases our chances of identifying who it was,” Kroska said.
One Ankeny mother said even though her kids are young, it’s important to have conversations about safety at any age.
“Every time something like this comes up, it’s a good reminder to just be more aware, take some more precautions, and make sure there’s other people who know where you’re going. And if you’re going to be alone, be in a well-traveled area and have your cell phone or something like that,” Meghan Schemmel said.
Police say when having these conversations, it’s a good idea to avoid the “stranger danger” motto.
“You really need to teach kids about trusted adults and unsafe situations because the true stranger anymore is not going to come up to a child and appear to be scary. They’re going to do everything that they can to be unassuming. It could be more likely the case that a parent or an acquaintance that the child may be familiar with,” Kroska said.
Kroska said with school coming up, it’s also important to have a plan for pick-up, drop-off, and walking to and from.
"So you need to teach your kids that without parental permission you can’t go with that person," said Kroska. "Teach them a code word that only that child knows with the parent, and if the person who’s asking them to go with them, if they don’t know the code word, that child knows not to go with that person. And in the worst case scenario, if it is a true stranger abduction, you need to teach your children to fight, scream, make a scene, get on the cell phone, get to a public place, any place where there’s cameras. Teach them how to fight, go for the eyes, bite, and scratch, anything they can do so that child could not get picked up by force."
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Ankeny Police Department at 515-289-5240.