Winnipeg police and St. James-Assiniboia School Division officials are warning the public about a suspicious man approaching school children in the community.
During the past week, Winnipeg police released three separate advisories of an Asian man approaching children in St. James and the West End.
On Oct. 10 around 2:45 p.m., police say a suspicious man in a vehicle approached two 11-year-old females in the 600 block of Ellice Avenue, asking if they needed a ride.
When the girls declined and continued to walk away, the man followed and asked them if they could help him find his lost dog, police said. The girls managed to evade the man and were not harmed.
Eight days earlier, on Oct. 2, police say a similar looking man approached a 13-year-old girl around Ness Avenue and School Road at around 3 p.m. A day earlier, an Asian man was also reported as having twice approached an 11-year-old boy on his way to school around Sharp Boulevard and Lodge Avenue.
None of the youth were harmed in the incidents, police said.
"Our biggest concern in cases like this is the unknown," said police spokesperson Const. Jason Michalyshen.
"We don’t know what their motivation is. What we do know is we have more than one report of similar circumstances of young people being approached.
"We want to make every effort to identify this individual and certainly have some discussions with him."
In all three instances, the suspect’s description and vehicle are similar, although police are treating the incidents as separate.
Police are looking for an Asian man, about 30 to 50 years old, medium build with short black hair. In the recent West End incident, the man was described as having "droopy facial features." The man is driving a dark-blue car or minivan. Police do not have a license plate number.
St. James-Assiniboia School Division sent a letter to parents in kindergarten to Grade 8 schools across the division about the incidents, superintendent Ron Weston said.
The letter notes the man has been following school routes and is driving a blue, four-door Pontiac.
Bus drivers and division maintenance staff have also been notified to be alert, Weston said.
"These incidents happen more often than you’d like," he said.
"Certainly not every week or month, but (reports) seem to come at this time of year, when the weather’s nice. There’s no pattern to it, but when we do get them, we remind everybody about street smart behavior."
Athlone School parent Kim Hamilton said she received a similar letter from the division this past June about a suspicious man in the area.
Hamilton drops off and picks up her seven-year-old son at school every day, but recognizes the threat for other parents’ whose children walk or take a bus to school.
"It’s uncomfortable knowing this man is out there," she said.
"I’m glad to know the police have been contacted and the matter is being investigated."
With the investigation in police hands, Weston said it’s important for the division to review street smart behaviour with students and parents, and encourage people to report suspicious behaviour and uncomfortable activities.
"We want to make sure kids are aware: don’t approach strangers who pull up in a car. They all have a pattern, and that’s trying to lure kids into vehicles," he said.