‘Absolutely terrifying’: Strathmore parents raise awareness following abduction

Parents in Strathmore are having important conversations with their children as local police continue to search for two men who they say abducted a young girl Tuesday afternoon in the southern Alberta town.

RCMP say the child was forced into a four-door, white truck while waiting at her school bus drop-off area. She was then taken to a nearby home where she managed to escape.

The girl was located safely two hours later and taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, but the incident is sparking major concern amongst community members.

Chandra Permann has five young daughters and a son of her own and was shocked to hear the news.

“It was certainly unnerving to hear something like that has happened in our town,” she said.

“We’ve already had many talks with our girls about understanding safety and about not approaching any vehicles that might approach them, always going to a safe place if they feel uncomfortable.”

Other mothers, like Cynthia Moore, add that raising awareness is essential to stop an abduction attempt in its tracks.

“This is terrifying, absolutely terrifying.” Moore said.

“My kids are so young so I definitely had the talk with them last night about ‘stranger danger.’ It’s a real thing and I think people maybe feel a little bit safer in a small community, but as parents we need to definitely be talking to our kids.”

Abductions are scary situations, but Amanda Pick, CEO of the Missing Children Society of Canada, says this is a great opportunity for parents to sit down with their children.

“Roleplay with your child and ask them ‘what would you do’ and then really instruct your child to yell, to be loud to try and escape. I think children think that saying no sometimes to an adult isn’t a natural response for them, but they need to know to trust their instincts,” Pick said.

“And as soon as they don’t feel that they are safe, that they have the ability to say no, and that I think another really good thing for children to understand or for parents to explain is that adults ask adults for information, you know, if an adult is asking a child for directions, or you know something like that it’s not appropriate.”

Pick adds that parents should also know who their children’s friends are and take their children into the community to make sure they know where safe places are located.

STRATHMORE RCMP RELEASE SUSPECT DESCRIPTIONS

RCMP released descriptions Thursday of two suspects involved in the abduction of a young girl in the southern Alberta town earlier this week.

Both are described as having light skin and being clean shaven, according to police.

The first suspect had long black hair and was wearing a black tuque and a black ‘Zoo York’ sweater.

The second suspect was wearing a white shirt and grey sweatpants.

The suspect vehicle is described as being a white, four-door pickup truck with a grey interior.

Staff Sgt. Mark Wielgosz says the investigation is ongoing and his team will leave ‘no stone unturned.’

“At this point in time, we’re following up every lead that we can uncover. The area where the incident occurred has been scoured by our investigators and we continue to deploy dedicated resources to this investigation,” he said.

“We’ve also used the assistance of our police service dogs for searches in areas and we do plan to continue with his investigation until hopefully we get to a successful conclusion.”

Wielgosz notes that the exact location where the incident took place will not yet be released to the public so as not to compromise the investigation.

He adds that the incident itself is very rare and says this is a good reminder for the public to be on the look-out for suspicious activity.

“We live in a safe rural community and we strive to maintain the safety of our community so we need to look out for each other and in particular, our Strathmore youth,” Wielgosz said.

“It’s important for parents to make sure if their kids have a smart device to keep it with them, make sure your kids know how to call their parents, pre-set dials as well as 911 if necessary and obviously don’t talk to strangers.”

TOWN OF STRATHMORE OFFERS SUPPORT TO FAMILY OF ABDUCTION VICTIM

Strathmore Mayor Pat Fule says the community is shocked by what has happened, but thankful the girl who was abducted is now safe.

“The town stands ready to help the family and offer any kind of support services we can provide and we’re also really confident in our local RCMP, they’ve done a great job throughout the years here and we know that there’ll be on this as well,” Fule said

“I think Strathmore residents are usually really good at being aware of what’s going on and keeping an eye on things, but this is a definite concern for all of the community and I’m sure people will be on the watch as we move forward.”

According to statistics provided by the RCMP National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, there were zero stranger abductions in Alberta and 18 stranger abductions reported in all of Canada in 2021.

The incident in Strathmore is extremely rare, but the recent prevalence of abductions in Alberta is creating an unsettling mood in smaller communities.

In addition to the Strathmore incident, Cochrane RCMP are investigating reports of an 11-year-old girl who managed to escape an attempted luring on Monday.

Another incident in Cardston, Alta. on May 17 involved the attempted abduction of a 25-year-old woman who was forced into her vehicle by a man.

Anyone with information in relation to an abduction incident should contact their local police, RCMP, or give an anonymous tip through Crime Stoppers.

Strathmore is about 53 kilometres east of Calgary.

Anyone with information is asked to call Strathmore RCMP at 403-934-3968 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

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