LAKEVIEW, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Parents in Nassau County recently received a letter from police, warning them about a man trying to lure young children with candy.

As CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, police said it has happened several times.

On Friday afternoon, students from Lynbrook walked home from school in groups close to the curb. Teachers advised them to stay away from shrubbery and doorways, and to avoid shortcuts through parks, vacant lots or alleys.

The students said a letter was sent out about the reported child luring, and parents were horrified.

“It’s upsetting,” one woman said. “I have a little one who’s seven.”

Suspicious activity has been documented multiple times in the past two weeks in southern and central Nassau County communities. Police said an unknown male driver in a black-colored van or sport-utility vehicle – possibly with tinted windows – had been driving alongside children walking alone to and from school.

Police said the man attempts to lure the children into his vehicle, enticing girls as young as 8 years old with offers of candy and a free ride home.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Althea Bowman of Lakeview, Long Island. “I can’t imagine if anything like that were to happen to my three children.”

The most recent incident was in Lakeview, but school officials in Valley Stream and Lynbrook reported a similar modus operandi.

“As a community, I think that we need to be more aware, and just keep a watchful eye,” said Sydney Fisher of Lakeview.

Investigators said the suspect speaks softly and appears trustworthy. It is believed that he may live in the area.

“We all need to be a little scared, because times are changing,” one area father said.

“All I can do is keep my eyes open and be vigilant about it,” another said.

Some 16-year-old high school girls said they would run away or go to the nearest house if they saw the man.

Police agree, and told children to run in the opposite direction of the stranger’s car, yell for help, and call 911 immediately.

Children described the suspect as being dark-skinned and 20 to 25 years old. His van may have a dent on the right rear door.