The RCMP and School District 70 are reminding parents to prepare their children for potential approaches from strangers, after reports of a man questioning children in Tofino on Monday.
On the morning of June 5 accounts surfaced of an adult “who was acting strangely, asking questions about kids” near the intersection of Arnet Road and First Street in Tofino, according to RCMP media relations.
“Though no criminal offence was committed, officers from the Tofino RCMP were able to locate the man in question later in the day and had a conversation with him,” continued Corp. Alex Bérubé in an email to Ha-Shith-Sa. “He was explained that his behaviour was concerning to the public – to which he understood.”
Later in the day a letter about the incident was issued to parents from SD70 Superintendent Tim Davie. He wrote that the neighbourhood school was notified that the man was approaching children, and that this person drove a back Ford Mustang with an Alberta licence plate.
“Schools are encouraging families and students to be vigilant and review personal safety with strangers,” stated Davie. “As we prepare to enter summer vacation, we know our west coast and Alberni Valley communities often observe an increase in visitors during the summer months.”
Parents and caregivers are being encouraged to talk to their children about safety around strangers, including the need for youngsters to play or walk to places with a buddy.
“If they become separated or lost, they should tell someone with a nametag (for example a cashier or security guard) immediately,” explained the RCMP. “If there is no one with a nametag, preferably, they should tell a female.”
Children are advised to avoid long conversations with strangers, and to not answer personal questions, such as where they live.
“It’s okay to say ‘no’ to adults who ask you to do something for them, such as help them find a lost pet, join them in an activity or game, or give them directions,” continued Bérubé, stressing the need for kids to keep a safe distance of two arm lengths away from those they don’t know. “Never walk with or accept a ride, money or gifts from strangers or even someone you may know, without checking with your parents.”
If a person does manage to grab you, children are told to scream and make a disturbance to draw attention to the confrontation, running to a safe location like an open store.
“If a vehicle is involved, try to take notes describing the suspicious vehicle, licence plate, and the stranger’s description,” stated the RCMP. “Call 911 for help.”