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Search for van driver continues

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Older driver allegedly tried to contact Spencer school children Tuesday

Area law enforcement personnel are continuing to search for an older-style, white van driven by a white male in his late 60s or early 70s, as of late Wednesday afternoon.

According to Spencer Police Chief Mark Lawson, the individual in the van reportedly attempted to make contact with two young students at the Lincoln Elementary School playground shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

"It's not an abduction or kidnapping -- but he is a person of interest, a suspicious person," Lawson said. "We would like to find out what's driving him to hang around schools."

The police chief provided the available details.

"The students described it as older white van similar to a Dodge Caravan. They thought there was a dent on the passenger side rear. And the rear windows were tinted darker than the front."

As far as the driver goes, his physical description included a brown beard that's graying.

"That's the best that we've got. It's about as good a detail as we could get. ... Everything is out. There is nothing more," Lawson said.

Reports of similar incidents have occurred in other communities throughout northwest Iowa in the last two weeks.

Spencer School District Superintendent Terry Hemann said the kids were safe because everybody did what they were supposed to do.

"The kids did exactly what they should have done and the staff brought the kids in immediately. The staff blew their whistles and got them in the building," Hemann explained. "I felt like they did a great job and did exactly what they were supposed to do."

Hemann added, "With the other incidents that had been happening around the area, administrators and staff had been talking to students about how to handle those situations, whether riding the bus, waiting for a parent or sibling, or walking home."

Reports of additional incidents in Okoboji and Sioux Rapids Tuesday were unfounded according to Clay County Sheriff Randy Krukow.

"They were all bogus. The only thing I'm aware of is the one in town," Krukow said. "We had put alerts out to Clay Central-Everly. We notified the schools."

Krukow added, "That Clay Alert is really nice. Everyone should have that."

Lawson said a report of an incident in Sheldon Tuesday night was unrelated to anything that happened in Spencer.

Individuals with information should contact their nearest law enforcement agency.

"I know they're (Spencer Police Department and associated agencies) actively pursuing leads. We're getting a lot of reports," Krukow said. "There are a lot of white vans."

Krukow admitted there isn't any viable license plate information or description to go on at this time.

Lawson is reminding parents to educate their children not to talk to strangers or get into a stranger's vehicle. Krukow agreed.

"People may focus on the white van, but that doesn't mean somebody couldn't switch cars. We need to focus on stranger danger," Krukow said. "That's the bottom line. We live in a different world. We're seeing different types of things happening here. Things that we used to just see in bigger towns."

"If nothing more comes out of this than people being aware, that's great," Lawson said. "But we still would like to talk to this person and see what the deal is."

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I have always supported law enforcement and thank them for what they do, but this statement that it was not an attempted abduction because he never got out of the van boggles my mind.

Because the kids and the teachers knew what to do, they avoided an abduction is how I see it...nothing says that the man wasn't there to abduct a child.

-- Posted by spencer-gma on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 2:42 AM

I think this older man can be very dangerous,because he is trying to get childrens in his vehicle and this is not normal behaviour...He need to be kept way from schools and parks,before some child get hurt or abducted.And plus the two little missing girls from Evansdale Ia was never found yet and he can be pretty good posible suspect.....I hope they found him soon and figure out,who he really is....

-- Posted by nadiab on Thu, Sep 13, 2012, at 9:26 PM

I couldn't agree more with officer Krukow about seeing different types of things, people, etc. around here that many of us assumed only happens in larger cities. I think that the department responded quickly and were very persistent in warning citizens and searching for the suspect.

-- Posted by tber81 on Fri, Sep 14, 2012, at 8:51 PM

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