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CRPD Warns Parents About 'Stranger Danger'

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- Parents of students at two Cedar Rapids schools - are being told to stay alert after reports of suspicious vehicles following kids. This comes in the wake of similar incidents recently in Mt. Vernon and Olin.

There was a noticeable sense of urgency outside of Johnson Elementary on Friday afternoon.

"It's very scary," said parent Caty Trenkamp. "There's a police officer down there, so I'm glad that they're there to help monitor things."

Small hands were clutched by parents a bit tighter, and legs were moving a bit faster.

"I wanted to make sure I'm here to pick her up," said parent Jen Neumann.

According to Cedar Rapids police, the first incident took place Friday morning as a student was walking to McKinley Middle School. The student told them a man and woman approached them in a green cargo van. When the couple asked the student his age, where he lived, and where he went to school, the student ran away.

Police say a student at Johnson elementary says a similar vehicle followed her on the way to school.

Officials at Johnson say as an extra precaution, the school was put on partial lockdown, meaning all exits were secured and no one was allowed in unless they were supposed to be there.

Neumann says after the double homicide Wednesday, everybody is a bit on edge.

"It can sort of lead to a little bit of hysteria," she says.

Neumann says she's confident the neighborhood will rise above it.

"There's a really strong network within this neighborhood and community," she says. "Neighbors watch out for neighbors here, and we watch out for each other's kids as well."

Police are encouraging parents to take a proactive role by warning your children of 'stranger danger' - namely, telling your kids to never approach or talk to a stranger.

The following are some safety tips from CRPD to review with children about stranger danger:

Try not to walk anywhere alone.  Walk with a friend.

Dont take shortcuts through the woods, a back street or empty lot.

Do not get close to strangers.  Make sure you have room to run.

Dont tell your name or address to a stranger.

Never go with a stranger to help look for a lost pet or play a game.

Never get into a car with anyone that you dont know.

If a stranger bothers you, run away and ask an adult for help.

Know safe places you can go a police or fire station, the library, a store or a friends house.

If a stranger follows you or grabs for you, yell loud!  Shout, I dont know you!  If someone grabs you, fight back and make as much noise as you can

The student indicated that a man and woman where in a vehicle described as a green cargo-type van with a flat front.  The driver was described as an older white male with a grey beard. The passenger was described as a younger white female with brown hair highlighted by a strand of purple.

If anyone has additional information about these incidents, they are encouraged to contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department at (319) 286-5491 or Linn County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CS-CRIME (272-7463) or text CRIMES (274637) and in the message/subject, type 5227 and your tip.  You can continue to trade information with an investigator.  Text STOP to opt out at any time.
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