Two boys walking home from King Middle School on Monday April 4 reported suspicious activity from a man in parked car at Colusa Avenue near Marin Avenue. Image: Google Maps
Two boys walking home from King Middle School on Monday, April 4, reported suspicious activity from a man in a parked car at Colusa Avenue near Marin Avenue. Image: Google Maps

Two Berkeley middle schoolers escaped a possible attempted child abduction Monday after a man in a parked car beckoned them to come over and said he would drive them home.

Janet Levenson, the principal of Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, on Monday night emailed the school community with information on what she termed “suspicious activity reported by King students at Colusa and Marin.”

Read more about attempted child abductions in Berkeley.

“I don’t want to alarm you,” she wrote, “but a parent just shared with me that two King students were walking home after school Monday on Colusa near Marin when a man parked in an older 4-door blue car that looked “scrappy” asked them to come over and that he would give them a ride. The boys ran. They did not get a look at the man. He was parked across the street and when the boys heard him asking them to come, they quickly determined it wasn’t right and they ran without looking back. They heard him add that he would drive them home. This incident has been reported to the Berkeley Police Department.”

The incident comes in the wake of a spate of attempted abductions near Berkeley schools. The most recent happened last month when two men followed a 9-year-old girl to Malcolm X Elementary School on Monday, March 14.  One of the men got out of the vehicle and tried to grab the girl, prompting her to run away. The description of the green van the men were driving was similar to the description of a vehicle used in one of five attempted child abduction incidents in the fall, all of them involving middle-school-age students.

The first three incidents took place Sept. 18 as students walked to Willard Middle School, at 2425 Stuart St., between Telegraph Avenue and Regent Street, between 8 and 8:30 a.m. One involved two girls on Telegraph near Stuart Street. In another, a girl was walking alone on Derby Street — the northern boundary of Willard — east of Telegraph. The other incident, on Stuart east of Telegraph, involved a boy. In that case, the vehicle was described as a dark green older model minivan, possibly a Nissan Quest with rear tinted windows. The man was described as Hispanic, 30 to 40 years old, with dark hair and a mustache, heavyset, wearing a brown-and-tan-colored baseball hat.

See safety tips from Kidpower related to abduction attempts. 

On Oct. 18, three girls were walking on College Avenue and Webster Street at about 6:10 p.m. when a man near a van yelled at them to get inside. When the girls ran away, the man chased them on foot. Police said there was another incident earlier that day with a middle-school-aged girl.

Both Oct. 18 incidents involved a black full-size cargo van, without side or back windows. The suspect in those cases was described as Hispanic, 20 to 30 years old, with dark hair and a mustache.

Police said at the time that they did not know if the incidents were connected or done by the same person given the differing descriptions of the vans.

Principal Levinson ended her email to the community urging guardians to remind students to be alert when walking, not looking at their phones, and to “make noise and run if they feel someone is approaching them inappropriately.” “Kudos to the students today who reacted well and got to their destination quickly!” she concluded.

Berkeley Police Department asks that the community call 510-981 5900 if they witnessed this or any similar events, or have additional information.

Police investigate kidnapping attempt of teen near Berkeley (12.13.15)
Police use license plate reader in kidnapping attempt investigation (10.30.15)
Berkeley Police announce 2 more child abduction attempts; new vehicle description (10.21.15)
BUSD: Another attempted child abduction in Berkeley (10.19.15) 
Authorities respond to 2 incidents at Malcolm X School (09.21.15)
Berkeley schools on alert after 2 abduction attempts (09.18.15)

Do you rely on Berkeleyside for local news? Support independent journalism by becoming a Berkeleyside member for $10 a month or even less, or by making a one-time contribution.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...