Tehachapi parents are asking why the police department did not get the word out sooner about a possible attempted child abduction incident reported to them last week -- and police are investigating that incident and a possible second incident.
Michelle Searl told the Tehachapi News that she picked her children up from her mother's house near Tompkins School on Wednesday, Sept. 11. The children wanted to ride their bikes home, which she said was a short distance, so she allowed this, letting them get a head start and planning to meet them at home.
But within a few minutes they returned, frantic, and told her that someone had tried to get them to go with the in a maroon Dodge Intrepid.
"They threw a basketball out of the vehicle and said, 'hey, free basketball, you and your sister get in the car quick," Searl said. Her children were frightened and headed back toward their grandmother's house -- when she heard their story, Searl called the police.
Tehachapi Police Chief Jeff Kermode who sent out a news release about the matter on Friday afternoon, Sept. 14. The incident took place about 5:50 p.m. two days earlier.
As reported to the officers, a brother and sister, 11 and 8 years old, were riding their bicycles in the area of Pinon Street and Curry Street when a car pulled alongside them and the occupants tried to attract them closer to the car. The boy told his younger sister to ignore them and they continued riding. The car fwas last seen northbound on Curry Street.
The children described the car as a maroon Dodge Intrepid type vehicle, with damage on the right rear door. The occupants were described as a white female driver and a white male passenger in the right front seat. A car matching that description was found parked in the area and TPD is continuing its investigation into the car's owner and anyone associated with the car, Kermode said. As of last Friday, it has not yet been confirmed that this particular car or its owner is connected to the incident, he added. There is also no record of this particular car's owner having any history of any child related crimes.
TPD is working with other agencies to confirm whether similar incidents have been reported involving the same vehicle description.
But parents -- posting on Facebook -- expressed concern that it took so long for the police to notify the public. Tomkins School included information about the incident on its Facebook page on Thursday and said a "teleparent" automated phone call would go out to parents, but that call was not made until Friday evening. Tompkins School also sent a note home with parents on Friday.
School Superintendent Lisa Gilbert said that she did not know why Tompkins School did not send out the notice earlier. When the notice was sent out just before 6 p.m. on Friday, it was sent district-wide and included mention of a possible second incident.
Kermode said there was no good reason that the police hadn't sent out a news release earlier. He was on vacation and returned Friday. However, he noted, the lack of a news release did not mean the department was not investigating the matter and it it remains under investigiaton.
Parents are encouraged to discuss this type of encounter with their children and to teach their children to act as this boy and girl did: change direction, go home immediately, and report it to a parent, he said.
Anyone with additional information is asked to call the Tehachapi Police Department at (661) 822-2222 or the Bear Valley PD dispatch center at (661) 821-3239.