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Parents On High Alert After Luring Attempts Reported In Leonia

Police Chief Says 'We Are Very Concerned At This Point'

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LEONIA, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – Evidence photos from the scene of the Sandy Hook Elementary School after the massacre on Dec. 14, 2012, from the Danbury State’s Attorney’s Office.

Parents in Bergen County were on high alert Monday, after police said a man tried to lure two young girls in the past few days in Bergen County.

As CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported, residents of Leonia have been worried that the suspect might try it again.

Crime is rare in the Bergen County borough of Leonia. But when it involves a potential child predator — the news spreads fast.

“It’s really, really scary,” said Leonia resident Esleiry Castillo. “I mean, you don’t feel safe.”

Police said the man seen here tried to lure young girls off busy streets in broad daylight on at least one, and possibly two occasions.

The most recent incident happened around 11:45 a.m. Saturday.

Investigators said a 12-year-old girl was walking alone near the intersection of Fort Lee Road and Broad Avenue when a man driving an older model, dark blue or black Chevy Tahoe pulled up behind her and began honking the horn aggressively trying to get her attention.

He asked for directions and police said when she didn’t answer, he asked the girl to get into the vehicle and show him the way, CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reported.

Last Thursday, a 15-year-old girl reported a similar incident.

A man — with a similar description — began following her in a dark-colored van and asked her a series of inappropriate questions, police said.

“There was no physical harm, but in both incidents the behavior and request of the driver and person that got out of the vehicle was highly unusual, highly inappropriate and we are very concerned at this point,” said Leonia Police Department Chief Thomas Rowe.

Still, the incidents were unnerving to parents.

“Of course it’s shocking, because my son is the same age as that girl, so right away you want to remind him, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that,’” said local parent Donna Centrella.

Centrella explained the dangers to her 12-year-old son, and 5-year-old daughter.

Daughter Chaira Centrella now knows to “scream and run away” if approached by a dangerous stranger.

Meanwhile, Chief Rowe said tips are already coming in.

“I believe, with the information we have, that somebody knows who this is. They will contact us and it will be the break in the case that we need,” he said.

Parent Margaret Velasquez went to Leonia Police Headquarters to report seeing a suspicious vehicle Monday morning after her daughter told her about the incidents.

“When she told me that I definitely opened my eyes wider, but I think they’ll catch him,” Velasquez told Brown.

The suspect is described as a white man in his 40s with long, shaggy brown hair to his ears, a big nose and a scruffy face.

Police say the suspect has been seen driving a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle with a New Jersey license plate that begins with a letter W. They have released a sketch of the suspect and have posted fliers showing it around town.

Leonia police have sent out an alert statewide, and officers in marked and unmarked units will be searching for the suspect, police said.

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