Schools Dispatch Stranger Danger Alert Following Bridgman Abduction Attempt

Police and schools in portions of Berrien County are asking that we share the work they are doing in alerting parents following a reported abduction attempt Tuesday afternoon. The Stranger Danger tips shared below are helpful for any family to share with kids of all ages. Here is what the Bridgman Police posted on their Facebook page last evening:

The Bridgman Police Department handled a reported attempted abduction this afternoon around 4:30pm near the Toth Park area. A preteen female reported she was walking from the park when she was approached by a white male driving a black car, possibly a Volkswagen with tinted windows and Florida plates. The suspect allegedly asked the girl if she wanted a ride and when she declined, he got out of the car and grabbed her by the arm. The girl was able to break away from his grasp and run away.

The suspect is described as a white male wearing a ski-mask, in his 40's, approximately 5'9 and "slim." No further information at this time and the investigation is continuing.

We are asking that anyone who may have seen the vehicle or this incident when it happened to call us at 269-465-3880.

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That was followed up by a letter to parents from Bridgman Schools Superintendent Shane Peters. Here is what he shared:

Dear Parent/Guardian:

An incident was reported to the City of Bridgman Police Department on April 9, 2019 that we felt necessary to bring to your attention.  It is reported that the Bridgman Police Department handled a reported attempted abduction this afternoon around 4:30 pm near the Toth Park area. An RMS female student reported she was walking from the park when she was approached by a white male driving a black car with tinted windows and Florida license plates. The suspect allegedly asked the girl if she wanted a ride and when she declined, he got out of the car and grabbed her by the arm. The female student was able to break away from his grasp and run away.

The suspect is described as a white male wearing a ski-mask.  In addition, the Bridgman PD reports that the suspect is male and may be approximately 40 years in age.  The suspect is also believed to be about 5’ 9” and “slim” in appearance.

No further information is available from the Bridgman Police Department currently and the agency continues to investigate this reported attempted abduction.  

While the local Police investigate this incident, we would like to take this opportunity to remind parents/guardians to speak with their children and ask them to:

  1. Walk in groups (on sidewalks) as much as possible. 2. Walk on well-lit streets as much as possible and cross only at corners. 3. Walk the same route to and from school (or bus stop) each day. 4. Be aware of their surroundings and be alert to people and vehicles around them. 5. Report any suspicious behavior to the Bridgman Police Department immediately.

Please be assured that the safety of your child is most important to us.  We hope this was an isolated incident, and we ask that you work with us to make sure that all Bridgman Pubic Schools children are safe and secure.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the City of Bridgman Police Department at (269) 465-3880.    

Educationally yours, 

Shane M. Peters, BPS Superintendent  

This morning, the Lakeshore Superintendent also sent a letter to parents. Here is that message:

Dear Lakeshore Community,

We received information last night that a “Stranger Danger” situation allegedly occurred in one of our local districts. The details of this report are contained in the attached email from Bridgman Superintendent Shane Peters. The letter states:

“An incident was reported to the City of Bridgman Police Department on April 9, 2019 that we felt necessary to bring to your attention.  It is reported that the Bridgman Police Department handled a reported attempted abduction this afternoon around 4:30 pm near the Toth Park area. An RMS female student reported she was walking from the park when she was approached by a white male driving a black car with tinted windows and Florida license plates. The suspect allegedly asked the girl if she wanted a ride and when she declined, he got out of the car and grabbed her by the arm. The female student was able to break away from his grasp and run away.

The suspect is described as a white male wearing a ski-mask.  In addition, the Bridgman PD reports that the suspect is male and may be approximately 40 years in age.  The suspect is also believed to be about 5’ 9” and “slim” in appearance.

No further information is available from the Bridgman Police Department currently and the agency continues to investigate this reported attempted abduction.”

Because of the proximity of the reported incident, I am sending this information out to our Lakeshore parents and staff.

As the weather improves and outside activities are becoming routine, these types of reports remind us that we need to continue to have conversations with our children about safety protocols on the way to and from school and while playing in neighborhood parks. While the local police investigate this incident, we would like to take this opportunity to remind parents to speak with their children and ask them to:

  1. Walk in groups (on sidewalks) as much as possible.
  2. Walk on well-lit streets as much as possible and cross only at corners.
  3. Walk the same route to and from school (or bus stop) each day.
  4. Be aware of their surroundings and alert to people and vehicles around them.
  5. Report any suspicious behavior to the police immediately.

A more comprehensive list of talking points is also attached to this email.

Please be assured that the health and safety of your child is most important to us.  We hope this was an isolated incident, and we ask that you work with us to make sure that all of our children are secure.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the City of Bridgman Police Department at (269) 465-3880.

Phil Freeman

Superintendent, Lakeshore Public Schools

Stranger Danger Talking Points for Parents

Parents should discuss these Stranger Danger tips with their children.

  • Always tell your parents where you are going.
  • Try not to walk anywhere alone. Walk with a friend.
  • Don’t take shortcuts through the woods, a back street or empty lot.
  • Bad people do not always look mean or scary.
  • Do not get close to strangers. Make sure you have room to run.
  • Don’t 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 you don’t 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 friend’s house.
  • If a stranger follows you or grabs for you, yell loud! Shout, “I don’t know you!”  Fight back and make as much noise as you can.
  • If anyone touches you in a bad way, say, “NO!” Get away and tell an adult you trust.  Keep telling until someone listens.
  • Tell your parents about places you don’t feel safe.
  • Talk to your parents and come up with a secret code word. Never go with anyone unless they know the secret code word.

If your children are old enough to stay home alone, review these tips:

  • Know how and when to call 911.
  • Never open the door to a stranger.
  • Never tell anyone on the phone you are home alone.
  • Never tell any callers your name, number or address.
  • Hang up right away if you do not like what someone is saying on the phone.

Grace Lutheran School also dispatched a similar message to parents today regarding the incident.

Around lunchtime today, Bridgman City Manager Juan Ganum and Police Chief Dan Unruh shared an additional comment on the Bridgman Police Facebook page:

From City Manager Juan Ganum & Chief Dan Unruh regarding yesterday's incident near Toth Park:

The seriousness of this type of incident should never be downplayed, but we should all remain mindful that these occurrences are exceedingly rare in Bridgman. Bridgman remains a very safe community.

The police department continues to investigate this incident but has no additional information or details to release at this time.