Police have stepped up patrols in Sydenham after two recent incidents involving young children in the area led to fears that a serial child abductor was at large
School officers and Safe Neighbourhood Teams have increased patrols in some parts of the area and have reassured parents they are working closely with schools over pupil safety. Parents have also been warned to ‘be vigilant.’
The first incident took place on February 5 when an attempt was made to abduct a nine-year-old on Thorpewood Avenue in Sydenham. The girl was on her way to school when a man tried to force her into a blue car, but she managed to run away.
This incident was followed by an assault on a 10-year-old boy on March 11 at Sydenham Park Road. The boy was drawn back by his shoulders by a man who approached him from behind.
The cases are not being treated as linked by the police. Police said three other incidents last month which had caused rumour and concern among parents were not being treated as potential criminal events.
The episodes led to concerned parents demanding to know what the police are doing to prevent similar episodes from happening.
“As a parent of two small children, one of whom is at primary school, I am very worried by the recent spate of attempted child abductions in the area,” said one parent in a letter to the Metropolitan Police.
“The only information we have received about the most recent incident was a text message from our daughter’s school. Do the Police have any advice for local parents beyond ‘Be vigilant’?” she continued.
The Metropolitan Police told parents that action had been taken to safeguard children in the area.
“School officers and Safer Neighbourhoods Teams (SNTs) in Lewisham are continuing to work closely with local schools and, where necessary, have increased patrols,” said a statement issued to parents by Lewisham police.
“We continue to talk to local schools about child safety and to ensure that the information being shared and sent to parents is factually accurate. We are specifically asking the schools to ensure that they liaise with a police officer prior to sending correspondence that may alarm or distress parents unnecessarily”.
Daisy Cairns, Co-ordinator of the Lewisham Community Police Consultative Group, which raised the concerns of parents with police, stressed that spreading rumors about an increase of abduction attempts in the area can cause more harm than good.
“Rumours can spread, especially with today’s Internet enabled communication. Even one [rumour] is enough to make any parent’s heart go cold and can be very frightening to children, who pick up on this sort of story,” she said.