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Police Search for Men Who Approached Women, Girls in Friendship Heights, Silver Spring

A woman was followed by a man in a minivan and on foot in Chevy Chase, police said.

Chevy Chase Village police and Montgomery County police issued an alert Wednesday about several incidents involving men approaching young girls and women in Chevy Chase and Silver Spring neighborhoods.

The latest incident happened near Kirkside Drive and Grove Street in Chevy Chase at 7 p.m. Tuesday, when a young woman said a man followed her in a minivan, shone a flashlight on her and then began walking quickly toward her. Hours before, in nearby Friendship Heights, police said a man driving a maroon SUV approached a 13-year-old girl. On Friday, a man made “inappropriate comments,” to a group of girls playing outside in Silver Spring, police said.

Chevy Chase Village Police are working to find the suspects, and have notified Montgomery County Police and Washington, DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, according to the alert.

A Montgomery County police spokeswoman said it isn't clear whether the incidents are related. "Is there a possibility they're related? Certainly, but it's possible they're not, so that could also be the case," said county police spokeswoman Officer Britta Thomas. “We wanted to put [the alert] out there so we can have everyone keeping their eyes and ears open, and maybe parents can have a discussion with their kids about not talking to strangers.”

According to police, following the most recent incident Tuesday evening, the victim—a woman who works in Chevy Chase Village—was able to run to a nearby friend’s house. Police said the man, who had been following slowly behind her in his minivan as she was walking, in order to keep pace with her, exited the vehicle and began walking toward her when she tried to take a picture of his car with her cell phone.

The victim told police she had been followed by a white panel van in the same area several times over the past few weeks. Police described the suspect as a male about 25 to 30 years old with a short, buzzed haircut and no facial hair. He wore blue jeans and a T-shirt. He was driving a light blue or gray older model Honda minivan described as “beat up.”

Earlier Tuesday, police said a 13-year-old girl was walking near 4420 South Park Ave. in Friendship Heights around 4 p.m. when she noticed a maroon SUV drive by several times. The driver pulled up next to the girl and began asking her questions, including her name. The girl ran to a store on Wisconsin Avenue and contacted her parents.

Police are describing the suspect as a male with short black hair in his late 30s or early 40s, driving a maroon SUV with black trim on the bottom of the doors.

The third incident happened around 4:30 p.m. Friday, when a man described as being in his 40s approached a group of girls playing outside near 2442 Ross Rd. in Silver Spring “and began making inappropriate comments about their bodies,” according to police. He asked one girl “if she wanted to go with him,” and the girl ran to her friends, according to the alert. One victim told police she had seen the man in the area several times before.

Chevy Chase Village Police are asking residents to be alert and call 301-654-7300 immediately if they notice suspicious activity.

Peter Kunz February 20, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Why on earth does "Patch" omit race from BOLO's/ look-outs for criminals & missing persons? It is THE first word used when broadcasting a description. This is not only foolish but dangerious!
Erin Donaghue (Editor) February 20, 2013 at 11:03 PM
Peter, you ask a good question, and one we get from time-to-time. There is a long-standing debate over when to use racial identifiers in crime reports. This article from Poynter discusses the issue: http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/newsgathering-storytelling/diversity-at-work/166506/ap-stylebook-updates-entry-on-racial-ids-in-news-stories/ It is Patch editorial policy to avoid routinely including the race of suspects unless there are other identifying factors that would help in locating potential lawbreakers. Different news agencies have different policies. In this case, the other identifying factors did not rise to the level of our policy to include the suspects' race. Thanks for your question and thanks for reading.
Tom February 21, 2013 at 01:07 AM
Sorry, Erin, but the Patch's editorial policy is counterproductive, if not insane. Race IS an identifying factor, and the police Public Safety Alert specifically mentions the race of the individual involved. Now, instead of having people on the lookout for a specific catagory of male, we have people suspicious of any male with short, black hair. This approach wastes people's time, causes needless concern, and threatens to distract police resources on erroneous calls. I have to ask, to what end? Is it your intent to impede efforts to assist our local police? What possibly could be the reason to exclude the race of a suspect if it is know?
Fred Foo February 21, 2013 at 01:36 AM
First, Patch doesn't understand its own policy. Erin mentions "unless there are other identifying factors". But there are such factors. The article uses phrases such as " male with short black hair in his late 30s or early 40s". Those are identifying factors! Second, the use of the term "racial identifier" is probably confusing our discussion since it's a slippery idea to begin. But I bet readers would be satisfied to hear a suspect's actual skin color. Skin color is as well defined as hair color which the article does mention.
Tom February 21, 2013 at 02:08 AM
http://connectedcommunities.us/showthread.php?t=53948 Here's a link to the public safety alert. I honestly don't understand why the identifying features of a suspect would be left out. If you're not going to report the relevant facts, why report at all?
Nadia Biznis February 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM
You ask why the policy? Because not hurting "racial sensitivities" is much more important than providing enough information so someone can spot this guy before he hurts someone really badly or kills them! You know, this practice disgusts me. You'd rather let some little girl or grown woman be vicimized than give enough information so people can spot and call the police on this nutjob who appears to be escalating his tactics.
Barbara Dunkley February 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM
I agree. Patch's editorial policy is irresponsible. It's political correctness taken to an unreasonable extreme. Of course the public should be given a comprehensive description of the suspects physical description. Every available detail is important information including the suspect's race and/or ethnicity. This is just common sense. I am very disappointed in Patch!
mary knight February 21, 2013 at 12:20 PM
Patch, the more complete a description is, the more chances a predator can be caught and lives potentially saved. Your policy as described above does not make sense, and furthermore, you are protecting a criminal. This predator is not playing. An ethnic victim is just as at risk as a non-ethnic victim. Patch, show some community leadership and enhance your descriptions to be all inclusive.
Rebecca February 21, 2013 at 01:09 PM
As a former journalist, I know this is a touchy subject, but I agree with the others that race is an important identifying factor and it is irresponsible not to include it in this article. The Poynter article makes some good points, especially regarding someone of an ambiguous race/ethnicity, but in this case the suspect's race is clear, and including it could lead to his apprehension or prevent someone from getting hurt. Public safety trumps political correctness.
Brian February 21, 2013 at 03:55 PM
Pathetic political correctness. Maybe when a Patch employee gets assaulted by a predator they'll change there juvenile "I'm scared I'm going to offend someone if I tell the truth" policy.
Ric February 21, 2013 at 04:40 PM
If the suspect were white they would have no problem printing it. Its the minorities we don't want to offend. Disgusting...
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 21, 2013 at 08:38 PM
please feel free to point to the last alert posted to patch involving a white offender that they clearly identified as white
Native February 21, 2013 at 09:23 PM
I don't know if this was the last crime post with a white offender, but it's the first one that came to mind: http://bethesda.patch.com/articles/woman-assaulted-on-capital-crescent-trail I have a teenage daughter at BCC and it would be helpful to have as much information as possible to aid in preventing an attack on one of our kids. I think that it's more important to be fully informed than to have a policy mandating factual omission for the sake of preserving any groups theoretical collective feelings or esteem.
Corbin Dallas Multipass February 21, 2013 at 09:35 PM
"In this case, the other identifying factors did not rise to the level of our policy to include the suspects' race" guessing thats the difference between that case and this one. Interesting to note it has occurred though.
Native February 21, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Seems like misguided self-censorship against the public interest to me. Why deprive those reading the article of information that could potentially prevent an attack on a child. We're encouraging gambling, putting speed cameras all over, and proposing firearm restrictions in the name of "the children." Why not publish the facts about an individual suspected of attempting to prey on children?
Ric February 22, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Not here...obviously being PC is more important than the safety of our children.
jnrentz1 February 25, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Ric: You are correct.
jnrentz1 February 26, 2013 at 05:59 AM
This is more Politically Correct Bullstuff designed to pander to the "sensitivities' of some minorities. In the above case, the lookout was for a Hispanic male.

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