Investigators in Norton Shores interviewed a 12-year-old girl who said an unknown person followed her in a white minivan very slowly while she was walking home from school around 3 p.m. Thursday. The incident occurred at the corner of Wickham and Columbus.
The girl, who is a student from the Mona Shores School district, said the van was very close behind her and when she turned around, the person inside the van motioned for her to come back towards the van.
The student said she immediately took off running to her home. The incident was reported to police around 6:40 p.m. Thursday.
She described the vehicle as a white minivan with rust on the hood. The student was unable to get a good look at the driver and only saw an arm motioning for her to come over.
In a letter to parents, the superintendent of Mona Shores Public Schools indicated the driver, a male, was wearing a hat. The van is described as an ‘early 2000 model with rust on the hood near the headlights with a grill split up into smaller areas, not one solid piece.’
According to Orchard View Schools Superintendent Jim Nielsen, another report was filed Wednesday with the Muskegon Township Police Department alleging that a woman in a white, rusty van may have tried to lure a female Cardinal Elementary School student toward a van on Marquette Avenue near Sheridan Drive.
Nielsen said the student reported that the driver mentioned having candy. The woman eventually drove off.
Nielsen was told by Muskegon Township Police Department that the case was likely not connected to the others, but Nielsen couldn’t say definitively.
Still, the incidents are very similar to a previous attempted abduction of a 15-year-old girl from a school bus stop at the corner of Grand Haven Road and Mt. Garfield, also in Norton Shores, on Tuesday.
That student was also from the Mona Shores School District and told police a man pulled up to her in a white minivan. He asked for her to come over to the vehicle, but she refused. He told her if she did not get in the vehicle “they would have a problem,” according to a press release from the Norton Shores Police Department. The van left after the school bus started to pull up.
While all of the kids are reporting that a rusty, white van was involved, the descriptions of suspects vary. It’s unclear if any the incidents are connected.
Norton Shores PD is handling the two cases involving Mona Shores students. They don’t want people to be ‘paranoid’ but to make sure they’re staying alert.
“It’s easy, you live in your neighborhood for years upon years and nothing ever happens, so you get lax. Just make sure — and this is adults too — if you see a white van, call 911 if you think it’s suspicious,” Lt. Michael Kasher told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
Both Nielsen and Mona Shores Public Schools Superintendent Greg Helmer contacted parents about the incidents.
Helmer said principals in each of their buildings Friday laid out talking points for students to stay safe.
“This would be incredibly concerning for a parent. I have three boys in the school district as well, so as an educator, as a parent and a community member, this all impacts us — it impacts our awareness. It jeopardizes the way that you feel about safety,” Helmer told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.
Police don’t know the intentions of the driver in each of these cases — and said some could possibly be a misunderstanding. But whatever the case — it offers a much-needed reminder of an age-old rule.
“What we’re telling our parents is to have conversations with your kids. We don’t talk to strangers, we don’t engage in conversations that are inappropriate with strangers. And if were confronted with a stranger we run away and tell an adult immediately,” Helmer said.
The best driver description police have is from Tuesday’s incident. The driver in that case is described as a black man in his 40’s, mostly bald, with a scruffy beard and a large build. He was wearing a dark T-shirt and the girl described him as having a deep voice. He was driving a white minivan with rust over the passenger side rear wheel.
If you have information on any of these incidents, or if you see a vehicle like the one described, you’re encouraged to call the Norton Shores Police Department at 231.733.2691 immediately and if possible, obtain a license plate number.