OAKLAND — Police patrols have been increased around Chinatown after two failed attempts earlier this month by men to abduct Asian children — a 4-year-old girl at an elementary school and an 8-year-old boy playing soccer at a park, investigators said Thursday.
In both instances adults intervened and prevented the abductions, and neither child was physically injured.
The boy later told police he thought he was "being stolen."
"Luckily, both of those children are OK," said Samara Lewis, whose 6-year-old son attends Lincoln Elementary School, in the 200 block of 11th Street, where the first attempt took place Sept. 2.
Since the incident, Lewis said, she has worried about the safety of the school and of the public recreation area it uses. She said she planned to attend a safety meeting at the school Thursday night to discuss potential safety measures.
Oakland school district spokesman Troy Flint said the school district's chief of police was conducting a "threat assessment" of Lincoln school to improve its security.
The suspect descriptions in the two cases are similar and investigators are not sure if they are dealing with one man or two.
Police released drawings of the men in the two incidents compiled from witness accounts and also offered up to $5,000 in reward money for information leading to their arrest.
Special Victims Unit investigator Officer Ross Tisdell said the two drawings were released
The first attempt happened about 2:20 p.m. Sept. 2 at Lincoln Elementary School and involved the girl, who was in a pre-school program.
Tisdell said a mother who knew the girl's family saw her with a "strange man" on the campus. The woman took the girl from the man and went to a teacher. When they went back to look for the man he was gone and police who responded could not find him.
The man had told the woman in Cantonese that he knew the girl's mother but Tisdell said that was not true.
That man is described as Asian, 40 to 55, between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-8, and weighing about 160 pounds. He was wearing a long-sleeve gray button-down shirt and gray slacks.
The other attempt involving the 8-year-old boy happened about 2:45 p.m. Sept. 10 at Madison Square Park at 9th and Jackson streets, across from BART headquarters.
Tisdell said the boy, a student at Lighthouse Community Charter School, was playing soccer with a group of other boys and girls when the suspect, who walked onto the field during the game, grabbed him by the arm and started walking away with him while laughing.
A school counselor made him release the boy and the man fled toward the BART office, possibly to get on a train.
Tisdell said the boy did not know the man and told police, "I thought I was being stolen."
Jenna Stauffer, Lighthouse's co-founder, said that as a result of the incident, the students will not return to Madison Square Park. In addition, she said, all children in kindergarten through second grades will play only in the school's locked play lot, rather than at the public Lincoln Square Recreation Center, which the rest of the students use at recess.
"We've put all of our staff on high alert," Stauffer said, adding that parents were alerted instantly, through an automated phone system.
That suspect is described as Asian man in his 70s, about 5 feet 7 and 130 pounds and possibly missing some front teeth. He was wearing a gray golfer-type hat, gray coat, white shirt and gray pants.
Tisdell said there have been no incidents since and police cannot recall when anything similar has happened in the area.
Anyone with information about the incidents can call police at 510-238-3641 or Crime Stoppers of Oakland at 510-777-8572 or 510-777-3211.