School on alert after abduction attempt

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2012

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A Hamilton school is increasing the number of teacher patrols, and parents are being warned to be vigilant, after a 10-year-old boy was the victim of an attempted abduction by a chain-wielding teenager.

Police say the Hamilton West School student had left a classroom to walk to the toilet when he was approached by a teenage boy and lured to nearby trees, about midday yesterday.

Detective Sergeant Robbie Hermann said the stranger – a boy of about 15 – "led him a short distance to some trees and produced some chain".

"At this point our victim believes he was about to be tied up," Mr Hermann said.

It was then a passing couple is believed to have spooked the offender, who ran off.

The boy returned to class and raised the alarm.

"Our 10-year-old victim was not physically harmed in the incident but is understandably confused by what has occurred and the priority for police, the school and partner agencies is to ensure he and his family get the appropriate support they need," Mr Hermann said.

Police are taking the youngster's claims seriously, and want to hear from the couple, or anyone who noticed someone acting suspiciously in the area about 11:30am.

The offender was described as a male Caucasian, about 15 years, with short black hair and wearing a grey shirt and black pants.

Board of trustees chair Rachel Chapman said staff, students and parents were shocked by the incident, but were grateful it had not been more serious.

"It seems like someone saw an opportunity and took it because where it happened was close to the outskirts of the school property. He basically jumped a fence," she said.

"Never on my time on the board has anybody grabbed a kid on our school grounds. Anybody would be shaken up by an incident like that."

Teachers will be taking extra duty during breaks in an effort to boost security over the next couple of weeks and the board would consider installing security cameras.

She encouraged parents to take extra precautions and to use the opportunity to talk with their children about keeping safe.

Waikato Principals' Association chair John Coulan said it was not uncommon to have strangers wandering into schools, but it was a concern to hear a young student's safety was threatened.

"It's an unfortunate incident. Many schools are open to members of the public walking through them or taking shortcuts and it's a matter of school staff and community being vigilant and being aware of who looks out of place," he said.

"Not all have the right intentions."

He said many Waikato primary schools had taken safety measures, such as teachers on duty wearing fluoro vests so they're easily identifiable, and students walking around school grounds in pairs, to help prevent these incidents from happening.

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However, he said it was not possible to supervise students at all times.

"You can't wrap children up in cotton wool. It's a matter of educating children around right choices and continuing to reinforce that message through education in the school.

"At 10 years of age there should have been plenty of education around going off with someone who they don't know."

He said the incident would heighten awareness of suspicious activity across all Hamilton primary schools.

Hamilton West School made headlines last July after police warned of a man who attempted to lure students into his car with lollies. Police increased their presence near the school.

Anyone who may have seen someone in the area of the school can contact Hamilton Police on 07 858 6200. Alternatively, information can be left anonymously on Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

- Waikato Times

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