Recent incidents prompt safety concerns for island children

In the past week, two incidents involving island children have gotten considerable attention on Facebook and an online community bulletin board; in both instances, family members close to the situations have said they believe there was an intent to harm or abduct a child.

Both incidents occurred outside at the Eernissee Apartments behind Island Home Center and Lumber.

One islander was arrested, booked into jail and then released in connection with the first incident, which took place April 30, according to Heather Vorenkamp, the mother of one of the children involved.  Sgt. Cindi West, a spokeswoman with the King County Sheriff’s office, said that case will be forwarded to the King County Prosecutor’s Office later this week to determine if charges will be filed.

West said she had no information about the second case, so she could make no comment about it or if it was related in any way to the April 30 incident.

In the first case, a group of children who live at the Eernisse Apartments were playing a game of hide and seek, and Vorenkamp’s 10-year-old daughter ran off to hide near a path that connects the housing complex to the Methodist church and the main highway, Vorkenkamp said.

There, Vorkenkamp said, her daughter reported that she saw two people, one of whom seemed to be hiding in a bush and appeared to be a man dressed as a woman. The individual approached her with a large stick in hand, asked her name and indicated knowing her mom. She grew uneasy, Vorenkamp said, and ran home. When she started to run, the girl reported to her mother that the individual reached for her, but missed, and said to the person nearby, “I should have grabbed her sooner.”

The girl told her mother that the individual followed her home, though at a considerable distance behind her, and saw where the family lives. Vorenkamp said they reported the incident to the authorities later that evening.

Attempts to reach the mother who wrote an online post about the second of the incidents had not been successful at press time. On the Vashon Community Advocates Yahoo group, a woman reported that her 6-year-old son had been outside playing with a water spigot with a friend when a man drove up, got out of his car and approached the boys. The mother said she intervened at that time, causing the man to get back in his car, shut his car door and tell her he had just been wanting the boys to fill up his soda can with water.

The post on the Yahoo group says she called the police immediately with his license plate number, and they told her they have had calls about him and that kind of behavior before.

However, West, with the sheriff’s office, said that repeated attempts to find information about that case have come up short.

If the woman has been in touch with the authorities about the incident, West said, she would like to know more about it so she can determine why it does not appear to be in the system. If the mother has not been in touch with the police, she should be, West said.

West added that the sheriff’s office would prefer that people be cautious and report incidents to the police even if they are not certain doing so is fully warranted. At the same time, she cautioned islanders not to read too much into these events because cases like this often turn out to be not what they at first seemed.

“A lot of times we get to the bottom of these, and find there was no attempt to abduct the child,” she said.

She also stressed the importance of watching children when they are outside and teaching them not to talk to strangers — commending the young Vashon girl who found herself in a very scary situation. And, she added, adults should call 911 if anything is questionable.

“With anything suspicious, we would rather they report it,” she said.

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