West Auckland parents to GPS track kids after abduction scares

By Morgan Tait, Ophelia Buckleton

Spate of ‘stranger danger’ incidents in West Auckland alarms families.
An 11-year-old boy was picked up by a stranger in a grey-coloured van last week near the Ranui train station. Photo / Jason Oxenham
An 11-year-old boy was picked up by a stranger in a grey-coloured van last week near the Ranui train station. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Concerned West Auckland parents are reverting to GPS tracking of their children after three abduction-related incidents in the area within a week.

An 11-year-old boy was picked up by a stranger in a grey-coloured van last week near the Ranui train station and subjected to a four-hour sexual assault, before being dropped back off in the area.

Two more children have been approached by strangers this week in West Auckland.

Natasha Woolmore ordered a watch with GPS tracking yesterday, to locate her 5-year-old daughter who has just started school. .

"I know I'm not the only parent that constantly worries about their child when they are not with them.

"This way, I know we have a higher chance of finding out where she is and if she's safe if I am every worried."

Woolmore, who moved to Ranui three weeks ago, was among a number of concerned parents who have taken to social media to express their interest in GPS watches to keep track of their children after recent events.

"It has given us a fright. Anything could happen you never know...I'm on high alert," said Woolmore.

"If that boy [Ranui victim] was wearing one of these, how easy would it have been to track him down?"

The GPS watch Woolmore has ordered cost $65 including shipping. It connects to her smart phone so she can see where her daughter is at any given time.

"It's not a very big price to pay for your child's safety," said the West Auckland mother.

The device also has a button which, if pressed, sent an urgent alert to the smart phone it is connected to, said Woolmore.

"You can also tell when it has seen removed. So if someone finds out the child is wearing a GPS watch and removes it, an alarm gets sent to my phone."

There are several GPS watches on the market.

The latest incident involved a 12-year-old boy who was walking home from school near the scene of the Ranui abduction, when a man tried to coax him inside his ute on Thursday.

An 11-year-old girl ran home on Wednesday morning after a man approached her while she waited for her school bus on Wairere Rd in Waitakere.

West Auckland schools have reinforced "stranger danger" messages this week with students.

Titirangi Primary School principal Alan Jackson said the school was being proactive to avoid a situation like this happening to any of its students.

This includes reiterating messages students were taught based on the police "Keeping Ourselves Safe" programme, which enables children to learn and apply a range of safety skills when interacting with others.

"So kids have the confidence to deal with situations and know how to respond," said Jackson.

"We ask parents also reinforce these messages at home because a kid can't be told enough times."

Jackson said children from the school have always walked in groups and they have a walking school bus to ensure no child has to walk alone.

"The main message is children don't walk home alone."

The co-principal of Summerland Primary School in Henderson, Barb Dysart, said parents have been looking out for their own children as well as others in the community.

"No one wants this to happen to their child. We are doing everything within our ability to keep our community safe."

Dysart said the school was ensuring any information was shared with the community.

According to several west Auckland principals, schools in the area share any concerns they have with one another.

The grandmother of a 12-year-old boy asked to get inside a stranger's car at the Swanson Rd shops yesterday said police had collected a full report from him.

"They came around nearly straight away and took a report, it was pretty quick," said the woman who wishes to only be known as Barbara.

"They just wanted to confirm what we had told them and talk directly to [her grandson]."

The officers said they would keep the family updated on the investigation, but they had not heard from police today, said Barbara.

"The fact that it was a different type of vehicle to the [grey van] involved with the young boy at the train station was interesting, but the police were still happy that we made the report."

- NZ Herald

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