UPDATE (Friday, Sept. 9, 3 p.m.) – The individual reported as suspicious near Highland Park on Tuesday has been determined not to be a threat to the community, according to investigators.
A DARE officer on patrol near Highland Park Elementary School identified a person who matched the description provided by a girl who said she was followed after school on Tuesday, according to police.
According to police spokesperson Scott Leamon, the individual has cooperated with the investigation. The person told investigators he walks to various destinations in the area since he cannot drive, Leamon added.
Police have not found any evidence the individual poses a threat to the public, Leamon said.
Authorities urge parents to remind their kids about staying safe and reporting any suspicious incidents to an adult.
Parents in one Roanoke neighborhood are on edge after several kids have reported being followed by a suspicious person, with two incidents occurring within 24 hours of each other.
Parents and children we spoke with who live in Old Southwest said their neighborhood is typically quiet. Many said they hadn’t felt unsafe walking the streets around Highland Park until now.
“I started walking home, and he popped out of nowhere,” said Riley, a nine-year-old girl who said she was followed in the first of the two incidents recently reported.
Riley, who spoke exclusively to WFXR News, said she was making a short walk home from a friend’s house on Tuesday when she noticed a man staring at her. A few days ago, she said, she saw the same man taking pictures of a girl on his cell phone.
“How I know that he’s a mean guy is I was walking up the hill one day, and he was taking pictures of a teenager, and she didn’t know,” Riley said.
Riley said once she spotted the man near the intersection of 5th Street and Washington Avenue, she began to walk quickly toward her home. The man started following her, she said, so she started running.
“I feel like he might take me away,” Riley said.
Once she was near other people, she added, the man disappeared.
“I feel like it’s going to happen to somebody else, like it might happen to one of my friends or to one of my sisters, and I don’t want that to happen,” Riley said.
The following day, a group of students reported a similar incident in the same neighborhood, according to officials with the Roanoke City Public Schools. The group spotted a suspicious individual in Highland Park, according to administrators with Highland Park Elementary School, located across the street from the park.
School officials said they placed a recorded phone call to parents warning them of the incidents, and police recently increased patrols.
Parents we spoke with said they are now keeping a closer watch over their children.
“I just reminded my daughter about making sure that she goes out with a group of friends, not by herself, not with just a friend, just to be on the cautious side,” said Christian Andrews-Preece, who lives in the neighborhood.
School administrators have asked school bus drivers to remain vigilant and report any suspicious individuals seen along bus routes or at bus stops. They have also asked parents to talk to their kids about staying safe.