Police: Girl grabbed on elementary school grounds

EUGENE, Ore. -- A 9-year-old girl reported being grabbed by a man at her elementary school Monday afternoon, police officials said.

Eugene Police officers were called out to the Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion Elementary School at around 1 p.m. Monday for a report of an attempted abduction.

A student at Eugene Corridor reported that a man grabbed her while she was trying to take a drink from a water fountain outside the school's south entrance.

The girl was able to get away from the man, police said. Officials said that the man ran from the school on foot.

Officers searched the area around the school but were unable to find the suspect.

Police are now asking the public for help finding the man. He is described as white, 5'10", medium build with short brown hair. The girl said he was clean shaven, wearing a green shirt and slacks or jeans.

Yujin Gakuen Japanese Immersion Elementary shares a campus with the Eugene Corridor Elementary in North Eugene.

Officials said a similar incident happened at the campus nearly a month ago.

"Both attacks have been in the breezeway during an extremely busy time between lunch and that recess period and it's completely open to the public," said Alandra Galusha, a concerned parent in North Eugene.

Principal Thomas Piowaty said the school is taking steps this week to improve security for the children.

"We're closing off easy access from the street so there are a couple of fences that are going to be installed," Piowaty said.

Piowaty added that the school is unsure if the two incidents are connected.

If anyone has information in the case, please call 541.682.5111 and ask for Officer Renee Tobler.

Eugene police officials released this statement about child abductions:

Eugene Police urge area residents to call police immediately when they observe suspicious activity around children. The girl in this incident was able to react and escape. The incident serves as an important reminder for parents to teach their kids in detail about what to do if a stranger approaches them.

While abductions by strangers are extremely rare (most offenses against children, including abduction and sexual offenses, are committed by people that they know), such crimes do rarely occur and it is important to teach children about personal safety. Crime prevention specialists offer the following tips:

1. Explain the danger. Parents often tell children, "Don't go with strangers." This is vague and doesn't help children protect themselves-most abductions are by relatives anyway! Better advice would be, "If you are lost or need help, sometimes it's okay to ask strangers for assistance-but strangers shouldn't be asking you for help or to go with them. You should not go somewhere with strangers unless you need their help in an emergency.

2. Who is a stranger? A stranger is anyone you don't know. Make an agreement regarding who is safe to go with, and that they must say "NO!" to anyone else, no matter what! Teach your child to stay at least arms' length away from a stranger who approaches them.

3. Don't be polite! Parents teach children to be "polite"; they should also teach that it's OK to be assertive and not talk to strangers. Adults should ask adults for help, not children!

4. Home and phone safety. Teach your child not to open the door to strangers except in a real emergency. Explain what an emergency might be, such as a medical problem or a fire. Tell them not to answer probing questions from strangers. Tell them to come get you, or to call you instead. Make sure they know how to reach you wherever you might be. Teach them how and when to call 9-1-1.

5. Make a code word. Teach the child a code word. If a visitor comes to get them, the visitor must know the code word, or the child should not go with them.

6. Pick their routes. Avoid alleys, wooded areas, parking lots and spontaneous shortcuts. Choose areas where anything out of the ordinary would be noticed by neighbors, business owners, pedestrians, etc. Most importantly, help them avoid isolation. Arrange for them to walk with trusted friends. Consider providing them with a cell phone so that they can call for help.

7. Identify trusted adults. Pick stores, schools, churches, and homes of safe neighbors. Make sure your child knows these "safe places" that they should go if they need help. Remember, it's generally safer if the child picks the adult!

8. NO-GO-TELL. If approached by somebody who is scary, or who asks them to do something that seems wrong, a child should yell "NO!" then GO immediately to a trusted adult and TELL what happened.

9. Teach what to do in an actual kidnap attempt. If a child is screaming, a passerby may think it's a child having a tantrum, and fail to recognize an actual abduction. Children who are victims of attempted abduction should repeatedly yell "HELP! I DON'T KNOW THIS PERSON! I'M BEING KIDNAPPED!" Children have been saved by doing this. Be sure your child knows that resistance-yelling, kicking, scratching, biting-is acceptable under these circumstances. Depending on the age of your child, encourage them to remember details: vehicle description or model, appearance of the person involved, what was said, etc. Call the police immediately.

10. Practice with role plays. Have a friend participate, and have your child GO and TELL. Reward and coach your child.

Additionally, parents interested in learning about convicted sex offenders in our community who may be a danger to children can call the Oregon State Police Sex Offender Unit at (503) 378-3725 x4429 to request a list of all registered sex offenders living in their zip code, or visit the local sex offender website for information about area residents designated as "predatory" sex offenders.