Yorba Linda police have stepped up patrols in parks to combat attempts on child abduction after an 11-year old autistic girl disappeared briefly and was found with a suspicious person, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
It is unknown if the suspicious person, dressed in a black hoodie and pants, made an actual attempt to abduct the child.
The suspicious adult ran away when a parent of the 11-year-old approached, police said.
“We’re telling residents to be vigilant when out with their kids,” said Gail Krause, spokeswoman for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “Especially in light of what happened in Cleveland.”
On May 6 -- one day before the encounter in Yorba Linda -- three women were discovered to be held captive in a Cleveland, Ohio home after being missing for ten years.
Patrol units have been circling parks across Yorba Linda more frequently to watch for suspicious activity since the May 7 encounter, and encouraged parents to be aware.
“Not that it’s illegal, but if you see a lone adult with no kids hanging around a park, be on the lookout,” said Lt. Jeff Passalaqua, the commander in charge of patrols. ”Especially at a playground.”
Police also encouraged parents to speak to children about safety with strangers after the incident.
The 11-year-old’s father told police he was watching his son play soccer at Veterans Park when his daughter, autistic and non-verbal, wandered off. He told police he and several other parents began searching for her, and found her in the play area next to an unknown adult.
When the girl’s name was called, the suspicious adult fled, Passalaqua said.
The only description provided to police was an adult -- gender unknown -- wearing a black hoodie and black pants.
“We don’t really know the intent of that person,” Passalaqua said. “They could have been trying to find the girl’s parent for all we know, but what happened after parents yelled out made it suspicious.”
Anyone with information about this incident or information about other suspicious occurrences should call the Orange County Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7000.