Facebook group started after encounter with stranger
The Warren SentinelFRONT ROYAL – Worried parents are using social media to stay updated on reports of men behaving suspiciously around children in town and in surrounding areas. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials are asking anyone with information about the incidents to contact them.
But even though there have been numerous reports this month of men approaching children or behaving strangely in neighborhoods where kids reside, officials have made no arrests and have no suspects in the cases. Incidents reported in Front Royal are not believed to be related to those in Frederick County.
The Facebook page Keep Our Kids Safe Shenandoah Valley, started by Dawn Reynolds, states it has 2,338 members. Some members post updates on information about suspicious figures who may be targeting children. Many of the updates appear to be unconfirmed by law enforcement. Reynolds didn't respond to requests for comment from The Sentinel.
The page states that it was created to spread awareness of events in the Shenandoah Valley relating to attempted abductions, missing children or any suspicious activity regarding children and is not affiliated with police or fire authorities.
“We are only parents, concerned citizens, a proactive community,” it states.
Last week, Warren County Public Schools superintendent Pamela McInnis sent a letter to parents after hearing a report that a child had been approached by a stranger in Front Royal for the second time in October.
McInnis said she sent the letter, dated Oct. 18., after a child at Skyline High School told a school resource officer about an incident that happened Oct. 11.
“This was just a precaution since the resource officer had sent the same message to all the staff at the schools,” McInnis said Monday. “Nothing has taken place on or near school property.”
The letter stated that the Front Royal Police Department had sent out a press release earlier in the month about an incident involving a white man in his 30s or 40s with “scruffy” facial hair who asked a teen girl if she needed a ride.
Another incident was reported involving a man with the same physical description, the letter from McInnis stated. The man described in the Oct. 11 incident was wearing glasses.
According to the Front Royal Police Department, the first incident took place Oct. 4 near the intersection of South Royal Avenue and South Street. A man driving a white Nissan asked a girl if she wanted a ride. When she said no, he asked a second time, was refused, and drive away.
Another incident took place Oct. 6 in which a white man driving a blue Toyota 4Runner made inappropriate comments to two girls walking in the area of Bel Air Avenue. The girls fled and the man drove away, according to information from the Police Department.
McInnis' letter mentions an older model dark blue van. She asked parents to report any suspicious activity to the Front Royal Police Department or Warren County Sheriff's office.
Front Royal Police Chief Norman Shiflett said the most recent incident involved a teen girl jogging on John Marshall Highway the morning of Oct. 11. A man drove up, asked if she was OK, and then drove away.
Lt. Allen Sibert, public information officer with the Frederick County Sheriff's office, said the incidents in Front Royal are not believed to be related to reports of a man in a teal pickup truck behaving suspiciously around children in the Raven Pointe subdivision off Millwood Pike east of Winchester.
Residents of the neighborhood have reported seeing a white man in his 20s with shaggy brown hair driving a teal truck in the neighborhood.
One mother reported seeing a man hiding behind the bed of a greenish-blue truck as her toddler approached it on a tricycle. She said she began screaming and running toward the child and the man got into his truck and drove away.
In a separate incident in the same Frederick County neighborhood, a 15-year-old boy reported being followed home by an electric blue Ford Ranger after getting off the school bus.
Sibert said Frederick County law enforcement officials have questioned numerous people driving blue, green or teal trucks, but have not identified anyone who may have been involved in the suspicious activity reports from Raven Pointe.
“We've followed up several leads and so far we've not come up with anything,” Sibert said. “As far as the incidents in Front Royal, they don't match mine in any shape or form.”
A news release issued Wednesday by the Front Royal Police Department states that parents should discuss standard safety precautions with their children, advising them not to get into a vehicle with anyone without permission from their parents or approach a vehicle occupied by people they don't know.
Officials say anyone with information about suspicious activity involving children should contact the law enforcement agency where the incident occurred and have a detailed description of the person involved as well as the make, model and license plate number of the vehicle.