CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- News of a possible child abduction attempt at Charlotte’s Freedom Park has some parents feeling on edge.
Natalie Rutherford, who was at the park with her daughter Wednesday for a playdate, says two moms approached her and another mom, alerting them that two teenage girls at the park had been strangely interacting with their kids.
They said at one point the teens told the children, “OK, it’s time to go, come on. And tried to lure them basically away from the playground toward a van,” says Rutherford.
Rutherford says the older blue van was parked near the volleyball courts.
“My friend and I were obviously immediately concerned and looked over and saw the man in the van watching.”
Rutherford says when parents stepped in, the teens ran back to the van and got inside. Feeling uncomfortable, Rutherford and her friend decided to leave. But she says as she was putting her daughter into her car seat, she noticed a daycare bus full of children pull into the parking lot.
“And no sooner did that bus pull into the parking lot did those two girls get back out of the van and start walking back towards the playground,” says Rutherford.
That’s when she says she and her friend went back over to the park to alert the bus driver and other moms at the playground, who she says also decided to leave.
On her way out, Rutherford snapped a picture of the van and its license plate, then on Thursday posted the picture along with a warning to other moms on the popular MICIT Baby site, which stirred up reactions from moms as to why Rutherford hadn’t called police sooner.
“I think at first my reaction was you know, don’t be dramatic. But after having the whole day to think about it, it sunk in and I thought wow, that’s actually really serious and a big deal and that’s what prompted me to post to the local moms group,” says Rutherford.
Rutherford says she has since sent the photo to police and given a report. CMPD says they received several calls November 9 regarding the van and that they’re investigating the matter. They say they’ve also added patrols to the area as a precaution. But as far as any other incidents in the area, CMPD says there haven’t been any.
In North Carolina, there are currently 68 missing children, 21 of whom went missing this year. The majority are teenagers and according to the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children, 86 percent are endangered runaways. When it comes to young children being abducted 10 percent are family abductions, while only one-percent are non-family abductions.
Police say if you ever see anything unusual, it’s best to dial 911 right away.