Officer Reassures Parents over Abduction Rumours

Police Sergeant Mick Macdonald explains e-mail panic

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Mixed Crime Report from Sgt Mick Macdonald


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Police Sergeant Mick Macdonald of Parsons Green and Walham Safer Neighbourhoods Team has moved to reassure local parents over rumours which have been circulating about two recent attempted child abductions.

In his newsletter sent to local residents, Mick writes: " I would like to begin by addressing an issue that has caused much concern to parents, and not only in our ward or borough.

" There would seem to be a series of e-mails and text messages circulating claiming the there have been two separate attempted child abductions in the Fulham area.

" Understandably this has created a level of panic, but allow me to allay some of the fears if you have been affected. Here are the facts: On September 7 a lady was walking her two seven year olds in Homestead Road. One of the children was about 15 metres ahead of mum, and out of her sight.

" At some point whilst out of her mother's sight, the little girl was spoken to by the occupant of a car, and she remembered him saying something about getting in his car. When mum and the little girl's mother came into sight the car drove away.

" When the girl told her mother what had happened, she reached a perfectly reasonable conclusion that this was suspicious. Mum attended the police station that day and gave details.

" After a full investigation there was insufficient evidence to classify this incident as a crime. There was a distinct possibility that the man in the car was a concerned passer-by who thought he had seen a young child on her own and wanted to ensure her safety. At no point had he made any effort to go near the girl. In other words we cannot be sure what his intentions were.

" The result of the report to police was an intelligence report logged on our intelligence systems. Having reported the incident to police, mum decided to advise her friends via e-mail of the incident. Once again, this is perfectly understandable. I have seen her original e-mail and all she was saying was that she had experienced a suspicious incident and she was advising her friends to exercise a little extra vigilance. At no stage did she refer to an attempted abduction or anything remotely similar.

" However, as these things tend to do, as it circulated words were changed or added until schools were actually sending out letters about "alleged abduction attempts". So the rumours were now being validated.

" Six days later, another mother was walking her three year old son in Studdridge Street. The little boy was lagging behind and might have appeared to be on his own. Two men in a vehicle said "Hello" to the little boy. Mum had seen the e-mails and concluded that there might be a link.

" This is entirely understandable in the circumstances, but if we had a predatory child abductor in our area it would be unlikely that the same person would approach a seven year old girl and a three year old boy. Therefore the likelihood of a link between these two incidents is remote.

" Unfortunately, with the combination of the original e-mail being altered by others, and the subsequent validation, the end result has been a heightened level of panic among some mothers.

" My colleagues have been spending most of the last week trying to get to the bottom of the situation and yesterday I had to respond to nearly twenty individual e-mail queries about the issue.

" In summary there is no evidence to say that there is any increased risk to children in the area. Yes there are nasty people out there, but they probably always have been and always will be. Normal parental vigilance will ensure that no harm comes to children. We cannot be sure whether these incidents were innocent or not, or whether they are linked, but the reality is that is actually changes little in terms of your children's safety.

" Be alert and stay alert. Police are aware of the reports and should either of these vehicles or their occupants come to notice in similar circumstances, the intelligence reports created here will ensure that they are flagged for closer investigation."

Mick adds: " Sorry that was so long but I really want to allay any disproportionate fears that you might have. "

And he finishes his bulletin with some good news: " Since our successes against burglary in July the ward has only suffered three actual residential burglaries and two attempts. This is a significant reduction and very welcome.

" Thefts from vehicles has risen slightly against the start of the year, but overall we are still 44% lower than we were at this stage last year. Street crime (robbery and snatch of mobile phones) is down 45% against the same period last year. So, it would appear that we are back on track."


September 27, 2010

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