Albemarle Schools, Police Investigate Incident between Student and Stranger
A false alarm put parents on high alert Thursday in Albemarle County. A trio of door-to-door sales reps were reportedly asking random children about where other children live in parts of the county.
The reports first came in Wednesday and continued Thursday - all starting with what students say was a man asking lots of questions at bus stops in the Keswick area.
An electronic message from Albemarle County Schools said when a student got off his bus and approached his home; a car was in his driveway. A man got out of the vehicle and told the student he wanted to get to know the families in the area and asked what other houses on the street had children.
The man went to the police on Thursday. He identified himself as a college student from Texas who sells educational books.
"You might call it a false alarm, but it does demonstrate how quickly we get a response from the public. This is the first time I think we have used the messaging system this way. What it teaches us is when everybody's eyes and ears are open suddenly we can make things safer for kids rapidly," said Matt Haas, Assistant Superintendent of Albemarle County Schools.
Albemarle County police say the trio works for a company called Southwestern Advantage and is properly licensed to solicit in Albemarle.
The school division sent out a second blast electronic message updating parents about the situation, and Albemarle County police issued a press release.
Read the statement from Albemarle Schools and the Albemarle Police Department below:
Albemarle County Police Department Press Release
The Albemarle County Police Department would like to address a concern in our community regarding reports of a suspicious circumstance.
The Albemarle County School System released a statement asking parents to be vigilant after they received information about individuals talking to students and asking questions about families in the area. We were made aware of these incidents last night and assigned a detective to investigate the case.
This afternoon, a man fitting the description stopped by the Police Department to talk to our officers. His description and his vehicle description matched those given to us by students and parents in the area. He is a college student here from Texas with a group of three other individuals. They work for the company Southwestern Advantage and sell educational books. The group is properly licensed to solicit in Albemarle County.
We understand the concerns of the community and appreciate the vigilance of those who reported the incident.
Second message from Albemarle School District:
I want to thank all of you and our community members for an immediate response to our telephone message.
This afternoon, a man fitting the description provided earlier stopped by the Police Department to talk with officers. His description and his vehicle description matched those given to us by students and parents in the area. He is a college student here from Texas with a group of three other individuals. They work for the company Southwestern Advantage and sell educational books. The group is properly licensed to solicit in Albemarle County.
We greatly appreciate the vigilance of those who reported this incident, and we thank the Albemarle County Police for their rapid response and excellent work to keep our children safe.
First Message from Albemarle School District:
Good Afternoon Albemarle County Schools Families and Employees:
We have received information about an occurrence at a bus stop yesterday afternoon that I would like to share so that all families and staff are aware, and so that parents /guardians can be vigilant and discuss bus stop safety with their children.
Yesterday when a student got off his bus and approached his home, a white Chevrolet HHR Wagon with Texas license plates was in his driveway. A man got out of the vehicle and told the student he wanted to get to know the families in the area and asked what other houses on the street had children.
It turns out that the man had also knocked on doors of other houses in the Keswick area with a similar story—wanting to get to know families with children.
His parents notified the police and Albemarle County Schools has been working in cooperation with the Police to investigate this matter.
The man was a white male in his late 20s or 30s, about 5' 11," with a scruffy beard, brown hair (but balding), and carrying a sort of brief case. At one house he even attempted to flash some sort of badge or ID.
We are grateful that nothing more happened with this incident, and we just wanted to make sure that everyone was aware – and we urge you to be vigilant today.
Please discuss safety plans with your child this evening on how to handle any strange occurrences that could happen when traveling to and from school.
If any student/family has information about this incident (or any other unusual occurrence at a bus stop), please notify the police immediately.
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