Some parents in the Norristown area were alarmed recently when students at Stewart Middle School brought home a note from principal Martina Wells, informing them of "suspicious vehicles" seen in the area of the school on Monday, Oct. 8.
The note, which was also posted to the school's website, read as follows:
Dear Parents and Guardians,
On Monday, October 8, 2012, it was reported by the Norristown Police Department that at approximately 3:10 PM there were suspicious vehicles located in the vicinity of Oakwood Street, Selma Street, Hamilton Street and Marshall Street. Parents are asked to please remind students not to approach any strange cars and not to talk with strangers. Students are asked to report any incidents to adults.
Thank you for your cooperation. Please feel free to contact me if there are questions at 610-275-6870.
Ms. Martina Walls
According to Walls, she was notified of the incidents reported to the police by the school's resource officer and felt compelled to use the opportunity to encourage parents to talk to their children about personal safety.
"I just wanted my parents to have a talk with their kids," said Walls. "'There's this [suspicious] activity going on. Please talk to your kids.' That's what that letter was about."
Walls said she informed Marshall Street Elementary School and Eisenhower Science and Technology Leadership Academy about the incidents and shared her letter with the schools. She also spoke with Norristown Area School District Superintendent Dr. Janet Samuels who agreed Walls should notify parents.
"We both agreed it was in our best interests to have parents talk [to their kids]," said Walls. "[Stewart is] a walking school and my sports teams walk late at night. That's why. I didn't want to create a whole crazy community [scare]."
"We try to be proactive and just put something out to our families," said Dr. Samuels when asked for a comment on the letter.
But parents who contacted Norristown Patch were concerned that only Stewart and Eisenhower parents were contacted about the matter. A parent of two Marshall Street Elementary students said she received no notice from her children's school. It's unclear if any other schools issued notices about the incidents.
According to reports from the Norristown Police Department, there were three incidents in the vicinity of Stewart Middle School involving suspicious activity around school-aged children between Friday, Oct. 5 and Monday, Oct. 8.
- On Friday, Oct. 5, between 3:10 and 3:20 p.m., a 12-year-old girl was walking home from Stewart Middle School when she was reportedly propositioned by a white male described as being between 20- and 30-years-old, wearing a white t-shirt and sitting in a silver car at the intersection of Stanbridge and Airy streets. The man reportedly asked the young girl, "Do you want to have sex?" The girl replied "No!" and reportedly ran off. She alerted her mother who then reported the incident to police.
- On Monday, Oct. 8, at approximately 5:56 p.m., officers responded to the area of Oakwood Avenue and Selma Street for a report of a suspicious male sitting in his car for a prolonged period of time in an area where children were playing. Officers questioned the man, a 53-year-old white man who is not a resident of the area and the man reportedly seemed nervous. The man could not provide a legitimate reason for being in the area and while questioning him, police noted a number of knives in and around the car's center console, seats and floor. The man also reportedly had a pink vibrator sticking out of his pocket. The man reportedly told police he "had a lot of issues" and wished to talk to someone about them. Police transported the man to Building 50 for evaluation. He is being charged with disorderly conduct.
- On Monday, Oct. 8, at approximately 3:10 p.m., a 15-year old girl was coming home from school in the 600 block of Hamilton Street and encountered a black male described as being in his twenties sitting in a parked silver car with tinted windows. The man reportedly honked his car horn, but the young lady did not respond. As she reached the passenger side window, the window was lowered and the man allegedly called out, "I'm here to pick someone up. I'll be back for you later." The young girl reportedly ran away and called her grandmother, who came to pick her up and took her to the police station to file a report.
While none of the incidents involved an attempted abduction, school officials said they felt it was important to alert parents to the suspicious activity in the area of the school and are encouraging parents to speak with their children about the dangers of talking to strangers.
Anyone with information about any of the above incidents should contact the Norristown Police Department at 610-270-0977.