Teens report abduction attempts

SIX Hunter teenagers have reported being approached by suspicious men within seven days this month, prompting police and the NSW Department of Education to issue warnings about public safety and stranger danger.

The reported abduction attempts include one alleged victim, a 13-year-old girl, saying her attacker leapt from bushes in Jewells and threatened to stab her if she didn’t tell him where she lived.

Most incidents reported to police involve ‘‘suspicious’’ looking vehicles pulling up alongside children on their way to school.

Some children say they are asked for directions or offered a lift while others report being stalked or followed by a vehicle that keeps pace with them as they walk.

But there are incidents that appear more sinister.

A 15-year-old girl told police she was grabbed on the arm by a stranger in West Wallsend last month.

The man tried to drag her towards a vehicle, which had a female in the passenger seat, but the girl broke free and ran to a friend’s house.

Another girl, 13, told police she was approached by a man under Swansea Bridge who rubbed her thighs, hugged her and tried to kiss her.

Central Hunter police are investigating four incidents in as many weeks in Cessnock, but have been unable to link any of the offences after receiving varying descriptions of offenders and vehicles for each incident. Four teenagers told police they were approached by suspicious men while on their way to Mount View High School in the past two weeks leading to an increase in police patrols and safety warnings from the Department of Education.

A Department of Education spokesman told the Newcastle Herald the school was giving ongoing ‘‘stranger danger’’ messages to students.

‘‘Schools always work closely with police when there are particular incidents and use the incidents as opportunities to reinforce safety messages with students, and if necessary, with parents,’’ he said.

‘‘The parents of the Mount View High School student involved in the incident on August 2 were contacted and students were advised at assembly.

‘‘Police attended the school, and the school alerted other Cessnock schools that day.

‘‘The matter was raised again at assembly on August 7 and the parents of the students involved in the incident on August 8 were contacted that day.

‘‘The school is continuing to work with police and other local schools to keep students safe, with the police school liaison officer attending [today].’’

When pressed on how many incidents police thought were genuine, Central Hunter crime manager Detective Inspector John Zdrilic told the Herald: ‘‘Police were obliged to investigate incidents as they are reported and have a duty of care to alert the public if there is a potential risk’’.

‘‘We’re going to take every report seriously because we’re not about to take a risk on child safety.

‘‘However, once the incident is reported at the school it tends to make it the flavour of the month and can lead to an increase in the number of reports we get.’’

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