Local children offered rides

Eunice Lee

A Haven Middle School student and a Kingsley Elementary School student were approached during two separate incidents this week by a couple in a silver car who asked if they would like a ride to school, police said.

The students, who were on their way to school, did not know the couple.

The Evanston Police Department is currently investigating the incidents, which happened Monday and Wednesday mornings.

In Monday’s incident, a female Haven student was approached by a couple while leaving her home. They asked her if she wanted a ride to school. On Wednesday, a second female student who attends Kingsley was approached by a couple who also asked if she wanted to a ride to school.

In both cases, the students refused the offer and continued on their way to school. The vehicle did not follow the students, nor did the couple exit the car at any time.

Both students said the male driver appeared to be in his 50s, with “salt and pepper” hair. The passenger, a female, also appeared to be in her 50s and had grayish hair. The Kingsley student said the male had a goatee and both wore glasses. Both students reported that the vehicle was a silver passenger car with a discoloration over the right rear fender.

In response, the police department’s juvenile bureau has increased police presence at the schools both before and after classes.

“Personally, I have seen an increased police presence in the area,” said Jeff Wilson, co-president of the Kingsley PTA. “The police have responded very well, and we really do appreciate that a lot.”

Wilson, who has two children who attend Kingsley, immediately spread word of these incidents to as many parents as possible at Kingsley and nearby Lincolnwood Elementary School.

“This gives every parent the opportunity to have a conversation about stranger danger with their children,” he said. “And, to make sure that (children) talk to their parents immediately after incidents like this.”

Students at each of these schools were given letters to take home to their parents informing them about these incidents and making sure they were aware of what occurred, Wilson said.

“You always get upset when things like this happen,” said Pat Maunsell, co-president of the Kingsley PTA. “This time it hit much closer to home.”

Maunsell has two children, one who attends Kingsley and another who attends Haven. She said “unfortunately” she was not surprised by the incident.

“We do hear about these kinds of things periodically,” she said. “Every school year I think I’ve heard something like this.”

Maunsell said that Haven administrators were extremely responsive to the situation, calling the police department immediately and making sure students were always supervised outside of school.

“We will devote anyone to the area not already assigned to normal patrol duties during the times (kids walk to and from school),” Evanston Police Cmdr. James Elliot said. “There’s the rest of the city we have to take care of.”

District 65 Superintendent Hardy Murphy wrote a letter to parents to increase awareness and promote conversations with students about safety precautions near their schools.

The police department is calling for community involvement in this issue, urging residents to report any suspicious persons watching or following children in the area. As an additional precautionary measure, police have suggested that neighbors monitor school bus stops or any other area where students gather.

To inform the public about this issue, the Evanston Police Department, District 65 and Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) have sent out e-mails on their listservs to community members.

Anyone with information about these incidents can call the Evanston Police Department at (847) 866-5050.

Reach Eunice Lee at [email protected]