When a Summit elementary school student reported to school staff that a tan SUV had followed her, she did the right thing, said Police Chief Robert Weck. But the incident, which occured Wednesday morning in front of Brayton School, isn't being considered an attempted luring incident by police just yet.
"Our detective and juvenile bureaus are investigating this," said Weck. Cops have vetted all the information in the case, and so far are calling this a suspicious incident.
There have been luring reports in recent days that have stretched from Cranford, to the search for a luring suspect in Morristown. A string of incidents in Bergen County — over a dozen reported — including a report of a 12-year-old who said he was offered money to enter a vehicle, have caused police to step up patrols in the area. They will even enforce a Halloween curfew this year.
But in Summit, substantial reports of child luring are few and far between. The problem, according to police is parsing which ones are the actual threat, and which might be a child who is reacting to things in the news.
"We take all of these [reports] seriously," said Weck, earlier this week. There's a balance at play, he explained, between calling an incident "child luring" or simply a "suspicious incident". The last thing you want to do is stir panic among parents and children.
When police were first made aware that a group of students may have been followed on their way to school Wednesday morning, it reminded Weck of the same decision he had to make last school year. Reports of luring attempts began popping up in the region and Weck decided it was time to send out a mass alert to residents, if only to remind everyone that there was no need for panic. One of the luring reports turned out to be a false alarm.
But this week, with the death of 12-year-old Autumn Pasquale from Clayton, on so many minds Chief Weck decided to send out a message to residents. He consulted with Summit Schools Superintendent Nathan Parker to inform residents about the incident. "We assist the police department in disseminatin of information to parents," Parker told Patch in an email.
This is a what police and school officials shared with the public:
A Brayton School child reports that she and a group of friends were followed to school by a suspicious ... tan colored Yukon. [The vehicle] followed the group down Larned Road from Mountain Avenue.
The child reports that once they were on school grounds they observed the same vehicle pull into the teacher's parking lot on Ashland Road. The vehicle was then observed leaving the area. No description of the driver was given and there was no attempt to make contact with the children.
Chief Weck followed up that 10:38a.m. advisory email with another one about an hour later, which started: "In the last few weeks, there have been several reports of child luring attempts." The second advisory included tips such as "Run in reverse".
"If necessary," according to the police advisory, "children should know to run in the opposite direction from the one the car is facing. It is harder to drive in reverse than forward." Weck says the most important thing to remember is that in times of hightened awareness about child luring, it's important for parents to talk to their children about the the subject.
Just don't panic everytime someone claims a luring attempt. "Sometimes it can be someone who got lost and needs to turn around," Weck said about some so-called suspicious vehicles. Still, he says this week's incident is nothing to worry about. "At this time," he said, "we don't have anything substantial that it's a luring attempt.