Suspect in custody after alleged student stalking incidents near Oak Park schools
Updated: December 5, 2012 4:42PM
OAK PARK — Oak Park police are crediting passing motorists with helping two girls escape possible abduction by a man Wednesday morning.
Department officials reported that detectives spent Wednesday questioning a suspect as part of an investigation into three separate incidents of girls being followed or accosted by a man within a 24-hour period. The man, who police did not identify, is being held pending further investigation and a review of possible charges by the Cook County State’s Attorneys office.
On Tuesday afternoon, an Oak Park River Forest High School student was allegedly followed as she walked home south on Ridgeland Avenue, District 200 spokesperson Karin Sullivan said. When she noticed the man, the girl ran to Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland, where a staff member at the door noticed she was being followed and called police.
Around 8:15 a.m. Wednesday morning, a 16-year-old OPRF student walking on the 100 block of South Taylor Avenue was allegedly grabbed around the neck by a man who tried to pull her, according to police. She screamed and bit his finger, police reported, and fled when a passing motorist pulled over and stopped.
In the third reported incident, a 13-year-old Brooks Middle School girl was walking to school on the 700 block of South Home Avenue around 8:40 a.m., when she was grabbed from behind by a man who placed his hand over her mouth, police said. The girl screamed and was able to break free and run to a passing motorist, who immediately called police.
The suspect got into a car and fled, police said, but officers relayed a description of the man and his vehicle. River Forest police ultimately stopped that car on Madison Street in River Forest after receiving a call from an off-duty Maywood officer of a car driving erratically.
Oak Park spokesman David Powers said the Police Department expressed particular satisfaction that two separate motorists stopped to help when they saw the girls in trouble.
Parents at both Brooks and OPRF were notified, and police increased patrols Wednesday in areas around schools.
“An incident like this is a good reminder that kids need to be taking safety precautions whether while walking to school or (any other time),” District 97 spokesman Chris Jasculca said.
He said District 97 and 200 officials have worked with police to develop a list of what he called common sense recommendations for helping assure children stay safe while walking to and from school.
Jasculca and Sullivan both urged parent to take a moment to go over the suggestions with their children:
• When waiting for a ride, wait near the school building.
• Always try to walk in groups or with at least one other person.
• Walk on sidewalks and other open areas rather than alleys that have less visibility.
• Be aware of your surroundings and any strangers who are nearby.
• If you have a concern about another person near you, go to a neighbor’s house, find an adult to assist you, or go back to school.
• Never approach a vehicle unknown to you even if the occupant speaks to you.
• Yell loudly and run if you feel you are in danger.
• Be sure to tell your parents if something happens. Parents should contact the police and the school.