CHAMPAIGN — Police are investigating another attempted abduction in Champaign.
The latest incident marks the fifth in Champaign and the sixth in the area since Sept. 20.
Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney said on Wednesday evening that police have not, at this point, linked the latest incident to any of four earlier attempted abductions in Champaign. But they said they believed two men were responsible for the other four.
Police said they were called to the area of Fourth Street and Beardsley Avenue, where a woman had been waiting for her daughter's school bus to arrive just before 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.
The woman told police that while she watched, a man pulled up at a stop sign, opened the driver's side door of a tan or beige van with black molding on the side and began speaking to her daughter, who "appeared to be afraid."
The daughter, 11, said the driver asked where her parents were and then ordered her to get into the van. When the mother yelled to get the attention of the driver, the man pulled away and headed south on Fourth Street.
The driver was described as an older black man with a medium complexion and freckles and braided gray hair. He spoke with a deep voice and wore glasses, a burgundy coat or jacket and an "old" hat.
People with information about the incident should call Champaign police at 351-4545 or remain anonymous by calling Champaign County Crimestoppers at 373-TIPS (8477).
Information can also be sent by anonymous web tip by going to http://www.373tips.com or by sending a text message with TIP397 plus the information to CRIMES (274637).
Meanwhile, Champaign police believe that two different men, likely working independently, are each behind two of the four earlier attempts.
"In this case, we clearly have two different suspects," Champaign Deputy Chief Troy Daniels said on Wednesday afternoon. "Each suspect has two different victims who gave us fairly similar descriptions."
Daniels said a black man in his 30s or 40s who is wearing a earring was behind abduction attempts in the Dobbins Downs neighborhood on Sept. 20 and the 1500 block of West Kirby Avenue on Monday.
"In one case the man was described as wearing braids in his hair," Daniels said. "In the other case, it appears his hair was messy because braids had recently been undone in his hair."
In the Dobbins Downs incident, Daniels said the man was driving a small red van. In the West Kirby incident, he said the man was driving a four-door cream-colored car. It isn't unusual for a person committing multiple crimes to change vehicles for separate incidents, he said.
"He is offering candy or rides to males who are about 11 years old, and he has attempted his crimes between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.," Daniels said.
Meanwhile, Daniels said a white man with blond or slicked-back hair in his 20s or 30s is responsible for attempted abductions at Kenwood Road and Sangamon Drive on Monday and at Doverbrook and Stonebridge drives on Tuesday.
In one case the man was by himself and in the other case he was with a 17-year-old man with brown hair.
In one case he was driving a red over white Chevrolet pickup truck, and in the other case he was driving a red four-door sedan.
In both cases, the man is targeting young girls between 8 and 12 years old and has attempted abductions between 4 and 5 p.m., he said.
Daniels said police believe it is a coincidence that the activities of the two are going on at the same time.
"The two suspects most likely are not working together," Daniels said. "It's not unusual to have two different suspects begin their behavior at about the same time. But, for this type of offense, it is unusual in our area."
An abduction attempt was also reported in Paxton on Sept. 20.
Daniels said solving a series of attempted abductions of children can be difficult for police because the victims are young and may not be as good at recalling information as adult victims.
He said it is possible that more than five attempts may have happened in Champaign, but either the child didn't report it to an adult or the adult didn't notify police.
"Certainly there could be more attempted abductions that we haven't heard about," Daniels said.
Daniels said there is always a chance that children who report similar abduction attempts might be doing it looking for attention.
"But we have to investigate these cases like they are real in case they are," Daniels said.
He said one of the difficulties in solving crimes like these is that police don't hear about the incidents until long after they happen.
"In one of these cases, the incident on West Kirby, the victim told a relative, but the relative didn't report it to police for a few days," Daniels said.
He advises parents not to put a child's name on the outside of clothing.
"You don't want the suspect to be able to walk up to the suspect and say, 'Hey,' call them by their name and say their dad told him to pick him or her up," he said.
Daniels said families need to create a unique family code word so that, if a child is abducted and the family needs to have a message delivered to the child, the child who hears the code word will know it came from the family.
"We need to remind children if there is someone asking for help finding a pet, asking for directions or offering a ride, they should get away from that person," Daniels said. "And it is okay to kick, scream, yell or fight hard to create a commotion if someone attempts to grab onto them."
He said a child who experiences an attempted abduction should try to remember as much as possible about the incident, including the physical description of the suspect and the vehicle and the license plate number.
"They need to flee as quickly as possible from an adult who makes them nervous and tell a trusted adult as soon as possible," Daniels said.