ANCHORAGE - An attempted abduction of a schoolgirl in Anchorage this week follows a similar pattern reported in January by three other children in Alaska's largest city, according to police and school district officials.
In the latest encounter Tuesday, a sixth-grader told police she was walking to a middle school when a thin young man in a gray or silver SUV with tinted windows asked if there was a school nearby, then invited her into the vehicle.
The girl said she thought the vehicle ran over her foot after she slipped and fell as she ran away.
Police unsuccessfully searched the area for the man and the SUV.
Police Lt. Dave Parker said the incident had striking similarities to the three earlier, unsolved cases.
All four encounters involved an SUV, including three where tinted windows were noted. The incidents also involved victims who were struck or believed they were struck by the vehicle or vehicles. All took place on dark mornings near elementary and middle schools in the northeast section of the city.
All involved a suspect identified as a young black man.
As with the other children, the 11-year-old girl targeted this week was not badly injured.
"Luckily, nothing more serious happened to this child or any others," said Sgt. Cindi Stanton. "But it's just a good time to remind kids, don't get in cars with strangers."
In two of the earlier cases, the driver told the students there was a moose up ahead and offered a ride for safety, then bumped the child with his vehicle when she refused. In one incident, the man made a U-turn to strike the girl, then again offered to drive her to a hospital where he said he worked.
Also in January, an SUV struck a girl and the driver offered a ride to school. She accepted, then got scared and began screaming, prompting the driver to let her out.
Photo lineups failed to yield a suspect or suspects, according to Stanton.
With the earlier encounters so closely spaced, the school district sent out a recorded telephone message about the incidents to all households with students throughout the nearly 50,000-student district.
After Tuesday's attempted abduction, more than 7,500 phone messages were sent to households in the affected section of town, said district spokeswoman Heather Sawyer. The district also issued notifications on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
"Parents are obviously concerned about the situation," Sawyer said. "I've heard some say that they will no longer be letting their children walk to school, but it's not preventing students from attending school."