RANCHO SANTA FE — Parents should be aware and warn their children about the “stranger danger” of a man driving a white pickup truck who has tried on several occasions to lure children into his vehicle in Rancho Santa Fe.
Three different attempts were made by this very bold predator Feb. 12 when he tried to lure children into his truck.
The attempts happened twice on La Fremontia and once on Paseo Delicias at about 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon.
Sheriff’s detectives say he actually drove up a driveway following a child as he was walking his dog. Later on Paseo Delicias, he pulled into the bike lane near El Romero, in an attempt to trap two girls riding toward them on their scooters.
The man waves, smiles and beckons them to come to him.
He is described as a Hispanic male, between 30 and 50 with a thin, bushy mustache wearing large, aviator-style sunglasses.
His is driving an older white pickup, with slightly tinted windows. It has two ladders hanging on one side, attached vertically. The truck has boxes and gardening supplies in the bed.
A man matching the same description, but driving a dark-colored truck, tried to lure children into the truck in Solana Beach over the same weekend.
Detective Randy Avila, lead investigator on the case, said he is not yet sure if the two instances are related, but the most important thing children can do if they are approached is to get away fast.
“Go to where other people are,” he said. “Don’t run into the woods or brush. Make noise. Scream. Yell. Attract attention to yourself.”
He also advises parents to do role playing exercises with their children asking them what they would do in certain situations like if they were approached by a stranger in a vehicle.
“Discuss it with your kids,” he said.
Avila said that people with this type of predatory instinct arrive at actual child abduction in phases.
“A lot of time they are building up courage before they actually strike,” he said. “I don’t know where in the process he is. My worst fear is that he is building up courage to do it, maybe not in Rancho Santa Fe because there has been so much publicity, but in another community.”
The positive thing about this is that it is bringing awareness to the community that it can happen anywhere,” he said.
He said that since Del Dios Highway is a major north/south thoroughfare it carries a lot of traffic.
“All different kinds of people you don’t know are going through your village every day,” he said.
School officials in the area ask that parents not drop off their children before there is supervision on the playground. For Rancho Santa Fe, that time is 7:30 a.m.
Matt Wellhouser, chief of the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol, said that because such things don’t happen very often locally, it might be a good time for parents to refresh the memories of their children about how to react to someone who beckons them to a vehicle.
“It’s like teaching them to cross the street,” he said. “You teach them to look both ways. It might be a good thing to go through the drill, what they should do and not do and what the dangers are. You don’t know what these guys are up to.”
Sgt. Chris Serritella of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said if a child is approached, 911 should be called immediately.
“We need to get out there in a timely fashion,” he said. “If we hear about it much later, it doesn’t help.”
Anyone who sees a man matching this description or who has more information should call the sheriff’s office at (858) 565-5200.