Baltimore County

Patrols increased in Bel Air area neighborhood after attempted abduction reported

The Harford County Sheriff's Office has stepped up patrols in the Cedarday community near Bel Air, after a man driving a van reportedly chased three children as they were walking home from their school bus stop last month.

In an update Tuesday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said it believes at least one other person, an older woman, was in the van. More details about the vehicle were also released Tuesday.

A call brought a deputy to meet with one of the children's parents about the threat at about 6 p.m. on April 24 in the 2200 block of Tall Cedar Court, Sheriff's Office spokesman Edward Hopkins said Monday.

The involved children were a 10-year-old girl, a 10-year-old boy and a 9-year-old boy.

"The parents reported their children were dropped off by the school bus on Cedarday Drive. While walking home, a van followed behind the children," Hopkins said. "The driver of the van reportedly yelled to the children to come to the van. The children did not respond and began running to their respective homes. The van reportedly had sped up to keep pace with the children."

The van is described as tan, beige or gold in color, a newer model that is possibly a Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna. The driver is described as a 26-year-old man who is white, has sandy-colored hair, is clean-shaven and has a muscular or heavy build.

"A neighbor who has surveillance cameras on the exterior of their residence recorded the vehicle and provided copies of the video to police," Hopkins said.

"We have added extra patrols to the neighborhood and the case has been assigned to CID for follow up," he continued. "I was told we did some preliminary vehicle checks [or] computer searches for look-alike type vehicles, patrols etc., but nothing productive turned up. We distilled the video down for easier viewing and are reviewing it more closely. In trying to mitigate community concern, we have assigned a detective to try and run down additional information and re-interview the children and their families."

On Tuesday afternoon, Hopkins said the Sheriff's Office had just learned there may have been a white woman in her 60s in the passenger side of the van.

"This same 60 year old female was seen last week driving the same van," he said. "Additional stickers on the van have been described as a Patterson Mill High School bumper sticker on the bumper and an unknown color ribbon style sticker on the passenger side rear of vehicle."

Hopkins also said that although everyone involved did the right thing, it is not yet clear if a crime was committed.

"The actions of this person are suspicious and clearly warrant further follow up by police. But we still have to determine if what this person did was a crime," he said. "The children did the absolute right thing in running away, going home, telling their parents and the parents reporting it to police."

"And, as upsetting or disconcerting as this may be to everyone, we factually don't know yet if he was luring" Hopkins added. "In other words, we cannot prove an attempted abduction. We have had similar circumstances in the past where people have done the same thing and their reasons were legitimate."

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