Local kidnapping attempts lead students to be more vigilant

Amber Buhagiar, Editor-in-Chief & Entertainment Editor

In recent weeks, students across campus have become weary about walking home after school. And this time, the weather isn’t to blame.

Six attempted kidnapping incidents have been reported across Stockton, all occurring in the same week. The cases have involved men approaching kids, mainly school-aged girls near schools.

Junior Joshua Harris said that he was scared after hearing about the attempted kidnappings.

“In these neighborhoods, it doesn’t really happen a lot,” Harris said. “When I walk to school, I should feel safe.”

One of the incidents happened on Holman Road and Bryant Drive near Cesar Chavez High School. Stockton police officials have released a sketch describing the suspect as a 30 to 40-year-old Indian man between five feet-eight inches tall to five feet- ten inches tall. The male has a thin build and was spotted driving a four-door gray sedan with a white vertical sticker on the windshield.

Another incident occurred on Harrisburg Place, near Rosecrans Way in Lincoln Unified School District. The suspect has been described as an unshaven white male in his 40s with a medium build and short brown hair. He was first seen wearing a tan or brown wind breaker and had brown rotted teeth.

Campus Supervisor Harley Vancourt said that after hearing about the attempted kidnappings, he became alarmed.

“I realized that I needed to keep my eyes and ears more open to keep the situation in check in order to keep the students safe,” Vancourt said. “As a staff member, and working in the security department, I try to maintain a level of security. It’s my responsibility to keep the kids safe.”

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), about 800,000 children are reported missing each year— about 2,000 reports a day. The NCMEC says that of the children reported missing, 203,000 are kidnapped by family members and another 58,200 are abducted by non-family members. About 74 percent of the non-family victims involve girls.

“Since I heard about the attempted kidnappings, I now try to get rides whenever I can,” senior Samantha Gritz said. “However, if I do have to walk, then I’m always cautious and pay attention to my surroundings.”

Vancourt says that students can and should defend themselves in a kidnapping situation.

“Your main defense is your mouth,” Vancourt said. “Holler for help. You also have your legs to run away.”

Gritz has taken a few precautionary measures to maintain a her safety if she has to walk home. She says doesn’t put headphones in both ears and that she tries to stay on routes where there are other people walking. She also knows it’s important to report any suspicious activity or people.

“As always, it’s the students responsibility to report it to the authorities,” Vancourt said. “As more information comes out about what the predator looks like, we need to make sure to distribute the info to staff and students.”

Administrators made an effort to inform families about the attempted kidnappings by sending out a school-wide phone call to students’ families containing information about the incidents. In addition, a sketch of one of the suspects has been posted in the staff meeting room.

“We have to remember that it takes staff members and students together to keep everyone safe at school and on the streets,” Vancourt said. “Always keep your eyes and ears open for danger.”