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Police release safety tips after they say man approached 9-year-old at bus stop

As the weather warms up and kids head to parks and pools, police warn parents to teach their kids ways to stay safe and away from strangers. (SBG photo)

EUGENE, Ore. - Police are asking parents to talk to their kids about stranger safety after a 9-year-old girl was approached by an unknown man at a bus stop in west Eugene Wednesday morning, according to the Eugene Police Department.

Police said the incident occurred at River Road and Park Avenue at approximately 7:02 a.m.

Police received information that a man walked toward the girl at a brisk pace after jumping out of bushes. The girl ran away to a safe location.

The incident happened a few blocks away from Emerald Park, where Jessica Schmidt and her three-year-old son play several times a week.

"Obviously you feel scared," Schmidt said. "I have an 11-year-old and he walks from school. So we've talked about not getting into any cars or going to friends' houses without telling me."

Debbie Janecek, EPD's Crime Prevention Unit Supervisor, says talking to your kids is one of the best way to keep them safe -- especially this time of the year.

"As we approach the end of the school year we'll have some kids out in the community, going to parks and going to the pool," Janecek said. "So it's a really important time to talk to your kids right now."

Following the incident, police released the following safety tips:

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times Do not get into someone's car even if they display a weapon. It is better to fight back in the street where help is closer at hand and other people may hear your calls for help.
  • Walk confidently and don't avoid eye contact Don't let strangers into your 'space.' Keep plenty of distance between yourself and people you don't wish to approach you.
  • Don't stop to talk with strangers asking for directions or other types of help as this can be a ploy to get close for an attack.
  • If you feel you are in danger or being followed, call 9-1-1 If grabbed, fight back and make as much noise as possible.
  • Use the buddy system when walking after dark or in 'fringe' areas, which are places there are fewer people travelling, allowing them a chance to victimize you without chancing witnesses. You should know the person you are walking with well enough to trust them.
  • Walk in lighted areas as much as possible and don't walk too close to bushes, alleyways or other places where attackers can conceal themselves.

"Use your words to say what's happening on your behalf," Janecek added. "So for example, you can say something like, 'This is not my mom.' 'This is not my dad.' That gives bystanders permission to intervene on your behalf."

The suspect is described as an older, white man with a scruffy, white beard, wearing a black hat with full brim, blue shirt, brown jacket and blue jeans.

Anyone with information on the case should call the Eugene Police Department at 541-682-5111.

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