There's been a spate of attempted child abductions across NSW -- here's what you need to know

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There has been a number of reports of attempted child abductions, assaults, and unknown adults approaching children over the last two months.

As an example, between May 2 and June 6 there were at least 13 incidents in just 35 days.

Here’s the breakdown of those incidents.

  • On May 2 in Tweed Heads: A man rummaging through council waste on Ourimbah Road, with his car engine running, gestured to a 10-year-old boy to approach him.
  • On May 3 in Tweed Heads: A man going through the junk pile on Ourimbah Road, with his car engine running, started walking beside an 11-year-old girl.
  • On the same day, shortly after: A man who was putting something in the passenger side of his car, which had the engine running, gestured to a 10-year-old boy to approach him.
  • On May 5 in Copmanhurst: A male driver attempted to engage three children in a conversation on Baillies Road.
  • On May 10 in Newcastle: A man approached a 10-year-old boy at a bus stop on High Street.
  • On May 11 in Casula: A man approached a 14-year-old girl on Leacocks Lane.
  • On May 15 in Narara: A man sexually assaulted a 12-year-old girl who walking along a pathway between Reeves and Carrington Streets.
  • On May 15 in Dural: Two men in a parked car gestured for a 12-year-old boy to come over them on Kenthurst Road.
  • On May 28 in Glebe: A man indecently assaulted a five-year-old girl on Wentworth Park Road.
  • On May 29 in Liverpool: A man attempted to snatch a 15-month-old boy from a children’s play area in Macquarie Street Mall.
  • On May 31 in Leichardt: Another man tried to take a 3-year-old girl from Pioneers Memorial Park on Norton Street.
  • On June 1 in Summer Hill: A man with a knife approached an 11-year-old girl on Bartlett Street.
  • On June 5, also in Narara: A man attempted to kidnap an 18-year-old woman near Narara Railway Station.

In response to the attacks in Narara, on Sydney’s Central Coast, Strike Force Garawan has been established to investigate the two cases which police believe could be linked to the same man.

Following the second incident, detective acting superintendent Mick Haddow said the attacks were conducted by men with “strikingly similar” descriptions.

“We are concerned about these matters,” he said. Police are seeking public help to identify the culprits, with Haddow adding he was “concerned” the man lives in the area.

“It’s concerning that a person would be prepared to wear camouflage clothing and cover their face in the way that this person has, it certainly says something about the criminality of the person involved, and that’s one of the things we’re very concerned about,” he said.

While he admitted that child abduction is a “very rare” crime, particularly in New South Wales, he did warn the local community in Narara to remain aware.

At this stage, these are the only matters that the police have linked, while the other two remain unrelated incidents.

“Reports of child approaches and attempted abductions have increased in recent times,” Haddow later told Business Insider.

“An explanation for this could be that children, parents, teachers and the community have become more vigilant to the possibility of child approaches and are more likely to make official reports.

“One deeply concerning statistic is that 4,500 children are abused in NSW every year. Disturbingly, in the vast majority of cases, children are abused by someone they know.

“We take reports of these matters very seriously and conduct investigations into each of them. Following a report, local police will also conduct additional patrols at schools and surrounding areas before and after school times.

“It assists police greatly if reports are made promptly and that as much detail as possible can be provided about the descriptions of suspects and their vehicles are noted. In particular, the provision of vehicle registration numbers allows the rapid resolution of matters.”

Parents on community forums on Facebook, including Inner West Mums, and North Shore Mums, have been raising their concerns about the number of incidents, and asking for advice on how to prepare their child so that if they were approached by a stranger they would recognise the signs.

Some have suggested using the description “tricky people” to educate children on the nature of a predator as opposed to the traditional “stranger danger” euphemism.

However Haddow suggests the if ever children feel uncomfortable, they should tell someone.

“Reported suspicious behaviour can sometimes be misinterpreted by children, but we always want them to report it. If at any time they don’t feel safe or someone makes them feel uncomfortable, we want them to reach out for help,” he says.

“There have been numerous campaigns aimed at educating children on both stranger danger and sexual abuse by people known to them, and they have worked. There is increased awareness in the community, which is a key aspect of prevention.

“We take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach to all reports of suspicious activity around children and will thoroughly investigate any reports. We encourage all members of the community to report suspicious activity to police when they see it.”

While Haddow says there has been a recent uptick in incidents, looking back at the crime statistics from BOSCAR, the number of child abduction reports recorded by NSW police in the past make the earlier sample size seems relatively low.

In 2015, 250 reports were made to police, while the following year that number dropped to 227.

A separate report, also from BOSCAR, revealed that on average the majority of reports made to police are legitimate.

In the study, which reviewed the cases of 238 abduction victims recorded between January and June 2004, the authors found that only 57% of the victims were actually abducted.

The 32% of the other reports were attempted abduction, while the experience of 4% of victims did not concur with the legal definition of abduction and for 7% of victims, either no abduction took place or a false report was given to police.

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