Parents and law enforcement agents surrounded the Lee Elementary School campus in Rossmoor on Thursday after a string of attempted kidnappings, all apparently involving the same man. Vikki Vargas reports from Rossmoor for the NBC4 News at 5 and 6 p.m. on April 11, 2013.
Parents are being advised not to let their children walk to or from school alone in Rossmoor after a series of attempted kidnappings.
On Wednesday evening, after two Lee Elementary School students were approached by a man in a van earlier in the day who offered them candy, school district Superintendent Sherry Kropp sent out a warning to parents.
The email comes after the two incidents – just 10 minutes apart – near a school playground in the affluent Orange County city (map). Those two reports, which came from a 7-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy, followed a similar occurrence March 24 in which a man tried to get two girls walking back from the playground to come with him.
In all cases, the attempted kidnapper was described as a 50-something, balding white male. His vehicle was described as a gray or silver van.
"Having this happen for the last two weeks, you think, what's going on?" said the mother of one of the victims in the March 24 incident. "I'm thinking, why is this guy back? It's scary…. I'm concerned for my daughter. Was he back looking for her?"
Identifying herself only as Kim, the woman said she was speaking out in part because she felt the initial March 24 wasn't talked about enough.
In the email sent to parents Wednesday, Los Alamitos Unified School District Superintendent Sherry Kropp said extra law enforcement would be on all campuses Thursday. The school district operates six elementary schools, two middle schools and a comprehensive and a continuation high school.
She wrote that a parent at Oak Middle School said her daughter was approached on Wednesday by a man in a silver car who said she had nice hair and asked if she wanted to be a "hair model." The campus is about a mile from Lee Elementary, but officials do not believe the incidents are related.
Kropp asked for parent volunteers to come to schools and be a presence around the edge of campuses, a call that was answered Thursday.
"I think everybody in this area is on pretty high alert. It's a pretty bad deal," said Russell Cross, a retired police chief who was walking his dog around the school's perimeter.
Lee Elementary Campus Supervisor Shellee Simon also walked around the school's edge on Thursday. She said the situation made her "angry."
Earlier Thursday, the father of a kindergartener son at Lee Elementary said he was grateful for the extra police presence announced by the district in part because talking to children about the threats is such a challenge.
"It's hard. At that age, you don't want to scare them. At same time, you also have to teach them to be responsible," parent Matt Hammond said. "It's nice that the school district is going to have the police who are educated and know how to handle that, probably better than parents."
Kropp's letter said that campus supervisors and the small school district's safety consultant would be at Lee Elementary. Teachers were planning to discuss safety with students, the superintendent wrote.
"Please take this opportunity to speak with your children about not talking to people they do not know, not getting into cars with people they do not know, and to report anything suspicious to an adult immediately," Kropp wrote.
A search of the state's Megan's Law website -- a database of registered sex offenders -- found four men living within one mile of Lee Elementary who had been convicted of crimes against children.