CLEVELAND -- The Ohio Attorney General is warning parents after a series of child lurings across the state.
Attorney General Mike Dewine says members of his Crimes Against children and Missing Persons units have discovered several similar incidents of child enticement and attempted abductions in Ohio, West Virginia and Michigan.
One of the incidents happened in Parma Heights on February 8. A 14-year-old girl called police after she'd been followed by a man driving a white cargo van. She said the man was asking her for sexual favors, as he followed her along Manorford and Ole York roads.
Investigators have linked that report to seven others, in Sylvania Township, Hamilton, Westerville and Junction City, Ohio as well as Monroe, Michigan and Kenova, West Virginia.
"We think it very well could be the same person. We don't' know that until we catch him we will not know that," said Attorney General Dewine in an interview by Skype. "But it's highly unusual. To have that many occurrences with the same description, same vehicle, and for it not to be the same person."
All cases involved victims between the ages of nine and 15 while driving a white, windowless panel van, possibly a commercial vehicle. The driver has then encouraged the kids to talk with him and get into the van.
"Luckily none of these children gave in to these attempts," said Attorney General DeWine. "They knew exactly what to do."
Agents suspect the suspect's job requires frequent travel, if the cases are connected.
In a 911 call the Parma Heights victim doesn't sound particularly frightened, telling the operator it's "not quite" an emergency.
Could the Attorney General being drawing a connection here prematurely?
"I don't have the luxury of assuming that. That may be absolutely correct, All of these may be isolated incidents, but I don't think so," said Dewine.
"I think what's really unique is the description of the vehicle. The fact that you have that vehicle so many different places, doing the same thing, the person in that vehicle doing the same thing. I think it's unusual. And I think for me not to draw the connection, or at least the possible connection would be irresponsible."
The suspect is described as:
• White man
• Mid to late 40s or early 50s
• 5'8" - 5'9"
• Brown hair
• Possible mustache
• Wearing a baseball hat with glasses or sunglasses
If approached by a stranger, Attorney General DeWine suggests that children:
• Make a commotion; Yell 'No!' or 'Help!'
• Run away immediately.
• Keep a large distance between themselves and a vehicle, if approached by someone in a car.
• Take all suspicious situations seriously; Do not be afraid to hurt a person's feelings by screaming or running.
• If possible, consciously make note of details such as a person's appearance, clothing, vehicle, and license plate.
• Know that it is OK to tell your parents what happened; Do not feel ashamed.
Attorney General DeWine also said that parents should:
• Walk to and from school with their children or arrange for them to walk with friends.
• Know the route their children take to and from school.
• Walk with their children along the route and identify safe places to go if an incident occurs.
Anyone with additional information on similar incidents should contact their local police or BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO.