Force says no evidence gang is ‘working to abduct children’
West Mercia Police says there is no evidence “that a gang or individuals are trying to abduct children” in Worcester.
It follows a number of reports of “suspicious activity being directed toward children” by adults outside primary and secondary schools and shops.
Local police commander Superintendent Steph Brighton said she understood the “heightened public concern that children may be at risk”.
But she reassured parents “that no information received indicates, in any way, that a gang or individuals are working in Worcester trying to abduct our children”.
Supt Brighton said: “I am aware of the heightened concerns in Worcester regarding a number of perceived incidents that have been reported across social media and within the press.
“We previously wrote to all the local schools to inform parents and carers of the children in our community of our investigations and to inform them of the increased police presence in around the schools for the purpose of reassurance following reports made to us of suspicious activity being directed toward children.”
Supt Brighton added that protecting children was “a priority” and it had investigated “every single report that has been made”.
A number of these described a variety of suspicious vehicles and activities.
“To date, despite the good intent of the members of the public reporting, none of these suspicious activities have transpired into criminal activity,” said Supt Brighton.
“There are just two unlinked reports that we are investigating in further detail to establish the full facts and details of any activity criminal or otherwise.”
Supt Brighton said she understood the community’s desire for incidents to be resolved and it would always work with the public to achieve this aim. However, she is urging members of the public to refrain from posting on social media groups and pages, but rather report matters directly to the force.
“We have observed some misleading and inaccurate information being reported which could potentially jeopardise individual’s personal safety and any future investigations,” she added.
“One such example of a report with good intent was where a man in a black vehicle was near to a supermarket taking a picture on a phone and an observant member of the public felt this behaviour was suspicious. Officers spoke with the man who explained that he had just purchased the phone and was testing the camera and an associated app out. Naturally, officers checked his device and we able to confirm that nothing untoward had occurred – this incident was then closed.”
Supt Brighton said they continue to have additional officers on patrol to reassure members of public and were encouraging them to speak with the officers on patrol near to schools with any concerns they may have.