HOUSTON – Residents are advised to look out for a man who is preying on children after a "stranger danger" alert was issued recently.
A mother was walking home from Harvard Elementary with her twins Thursday, and while one of them was walking ahead of her, an older man asked him if he wanted to play.
The mother approached the suspect, and he took off in a white "work-type" of van.
The encounter happened near the school in the 800 block of Harvard around 4 p.m. on Thursday. Phone alerts were sent to parents of Harvard Elementary students later that evening.
That is when a second mother realized her 8-year-old daughter may have been approached by the same man. The girl was near The Heights Library when a man got out of a white van and asked if she needed a ride.
“I was just thinking I hope I don’t get stolen or anything. I got out of the car to get my back pack, and a man drove up. He was driving when he said the first thing,” said Ireland Reid, the 8-year-old girl who made eye contact with suspect.
“Ireland hopped out of the car. Jillian and I were still in the car getting our stuff together," said Julie Reid, the girl’s mother.
Ireland saw the man driving the white van and got spooked.
“It was moments, possibly a minute. Ireland came up to me and said, mommy, a man in a white van drove up to me and said, 'Am I lost?'” said Reid.
“He said a lot of things, but he said, 'Do you need a ride?” said the girl.
By the time her mother got out of the car, the suspect was gone.
“The van sped off and rounded the corner off Heights Boulevard. It’s very scary. You try to keep your kids safe. I'm with them every moment,” said the mother.
After the horrifying ordeal, Ireland always holds her new dog for comfort.
In both cases, the man was carrying a red poncho. The Houston Independent School District and the Houston Police Department have added extra patrols in the area.
We worked on this story with our partners at The Leader.