At least four children approached

Police and principals are urging parents to remain calm as more children are subjected to suspicious approaches in Dunedin.

There have been at least four confirmed approaches since last week, but police are unsure whether the incidents are linked.

The mother of a 9-year-old Maori Hill School pupil, who asked to remain anonymous, said her son was walking home in Balmacewen Rd about 3.15pm on Monday when a vehicle began following him. The people-mover, which her son believed contained two occupants, was travelling slowly next to him.

Her son ran home in a state of panic when one of them moved to open a door, she said.

"He was sweating. He's never run as fast as he did."

He did not get a good description of the occupants, as he was too afraid to look in their direction, but got a look at the vehicle, described as a dark blue people-mover, with silver-rimmed wheels, a dent on the boot, tinted windows and white-stickered writing on the back.

She had security footage of the vehicle passing her Balmacewen Rd house and planned to supply it to police.

The woman and her son were both distressed by the incident and she would be dropping him off or having him walk in a group for the foreseeable future.

"He's a bit shaken up and scared ... the whole school is," she said.

Maori Hill School principal Verity Harlick said police had stepped up their presence in the area in the wake of the incident, and staff had been speaking with pupils about staying safe.

The first reported approach of a primary school-aged child happened in Three Mile Hill Rd, Halfway Bush, about 8.30am last Tuesday, when a member of the public intervened and the man drove away.

The second incident happened on Monday morning in Shetland St, Wakari, near Wakari Primary School, where a man asked a young girl to enter his vehicle to help him look for a lost puppy.

The latest approach confirmed by police was near the intersection of Warrender and George Sts about 8.30am yesterday.

Principal of nearby George Street Normal School Rod Galloway said he had been talking to pupils about being safe and sticking to plans they made with their parents for getting home from school.

"Today ... I've visited every classroom talking to kids."

Detective Sergeant Dylan Ross, of Dunedin, said it was unclear whether the repeated approaches to children were linked. They were investigating each incident individually.

He urged parents to remain calm but also to stay vigilant.

"We understand that these types of approaches can cause a great deal of concern for parents, but our message to the community is to be alert, not alarmed.

"Incidents like this are a timely reminder for families to have discussions around behaviours and actions that are inappropriate or that make a child feel uncomfortable."

Police refused to say why they had not released a description of any vehicle or vehicles involved or of alleged offenders.

Dunedin police (03) 471-4800, Crimestoppers 0800-555-111.

- Additional reporting Vaughan Elder


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