SANTA CLARA – A misunderstanding possibly triggered by a language barrier may have been the root cause behind an accusation of attempted kidnapping Monday afternoon.
Capt. Jay Randall of Santa Clara/Ivins Public Safety said the incident took place in the front yard of a home on Swiss Haven Circle where a Red Cross table was set up to accept donations for recent flood victims. An adult and a 9-year-old girl were tending the table at the time. The adult left the table for a very short period, during which time a Hispanic male driving what has been described as a white pickup, stopped by the table and attempted to speak to the 9-year-old girl.
The child was unable to understand the man due to a language barrier, and directed him to speak to the adult who returned soon after, Randall said. It was at this point the male returned to his truck and drove away.
Though the incident is still under investigation, Randall said there was little evidence the man involved was attempting to kidnap the girl. “We don’t have anything to support it,” he said. Still, that possibility hasn’t been eliminated yet either, so “the goal is to exhaust that end.”
Police are looking for the individual involved in order to confirm whether or not the incident was a misunderstanding, or if there was foul intent.
Randall said Santa Clara residents could be particularly sensitive to potential incidents of kidnapping due to the three teenage boys charged with kidnapping a 14-year-old girl in May. He also pointed to an incident last week involving an attempted kidnapping call at Arrowhead Elementary that turned out to be a parent picking up a child.
“We do not have a problem with kidnappings in Santa Clara,” Randall said, yet added people still needed to “err on the side of caution.” If someone felt they were witnessing something suspicious, then by all means report it.
Santa Clara and Ivins are safe places to live, Randall said. If an attempted kidnapping had taken place, he said officers would be very proactive in searching for the suspect. Due to the incident, the police have already stepped up patrols around elementary schools in the area.
Even if Monday’s incident stemmed from a misunderstanding, Randall encourages the public to contact Santa Clara/Ivins Public Safety with any information pertaining to the identity of Hispanic male involved. He is not considered a suspect, Randall said, but is still someone the police would like to talk to. The lack of official suspect status is also a reason the police have not released a more detailed description of the man or his vehicle.
The family of the 9-year-old girl declined to comment on the incident.
Though potentially unrelated to what occurred in Santa Clara, Josie Jones, of St. George, said she had seen a man in a white pickup trying to talk to children near Sandstone Elementary. Though she did not see the man’s face, she described him as being either Hispanic or Native American in appearance. When the man noticed Jones approaching, she said he sped away.
Jones contacted the police and school officials about the matter. She said she had no no knowledge of the incident in Santa Clara until after speaking to the Santa Clara/Ivins Police.
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