Series of Child Enticement Incidents Have Lapwai on High Alert
LAPWAI, ID —
Lapwai is a close-knit town full of families. But over the last 21 days a sense of unease has plagued this community of just over 1,000.
"Should make anyone nervous, someone walking, driving around trying to take kids. What's up with that?" concerned resident Jake Whiteplume asks.
Residents here are on high alert after three seperate incidents where an adult male tried to lure children into his vehicle.
Nez Perce Tribal Police Administrative Sgt. John Williamson says, "They were offered food and possibly money on one of the occasions. I believe it was a six and a seven year old."
All three incidents happened in a small radius between Lapwai's schools and the Pi-Nee-Waus community center next to the Boys and Girls Club, which happen to all be less than a mile from the law enforcement office.
"This is a scary time and a scary situation, even myself as a parent, " Sgt. John Williamson says,
Tribal police have partnered with the Nez Perce County Sheriff's Office and the FBI to post patrols in the area and are working on staffing a school resource officer.
They're also thinking long-term.
"What they call a CART team, which is a child abduction response team. We'd work in conjunction with the FBI and local sheriffs. Hopefully we never have to use anything like that," Sgt. Williamson explains.
The department is also working on filling a gap in tribal law and order codes by adding a child enticement code.
For now they're urging residents to be alert and report on any suspicious activity and talk to their children about stranger danger.
"That makes me scared for my kids. That's an eye-opener and ear-ringer for sure," parent Jared Peko says.
"We talked about it earlier so we're all just keeping an eye on each other," Whiteplume adds.
Sergeant Williamson says the most important thing adults can do in this situation is to not wait to call police about a luring incident. Even though this all happened less than a mile from the law enforcement office, waiting just a few minutes could keep police from catching a suspect.
Parents should also use this as an opportunity to teach children not to approach strangers or unknown vehicles.
- Teach your kids to run and tell a trusted adult immediately if a stranger tries to entice them to come with them or get in their car
- Grownups shouldn't be asking kids for things they could ask other adults, like asking for directions or help looking for a lost puppy.
- Get a description of any identifying features of the suspect vehicle or individual, including haircut, clothing, tattoos or scars
- Teach a child to scream as loudly as possible if they're grabbed by a stranger
- Call police immediately about any incident