(Ben Parker/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)
GARDNER (WBZ-AM) -- Two central Massachusetts communities are on high alert after reports of an older blonde man trying to lure several, young girls into his van with candy.
Following the reports, police presence outside Gardner Elementary School was heightened, and some parents opted to have their kids dismissed early Wednesday. Gardner Police Chief Neil Erickson told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker they wanted to get word out to the community immediately.
"We immediately put something out on Facebook, to get people's eyes and ears out there," he said. "All-school alert. A school resource officer had been around to the school ... all our officers are aware of it, so they're patrolling all the streets, all the bus stops."
A few white vans have been stopped by police, but none of those stops panned out. There was an incident in neighboring Hubbardston where two eleven-year-old girls reported a man in a white van taping an encounter with them. Erickson said police are investigating to see if the two incidents are connected.
In each case, the children ran from the suspect.
Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke said these instances should spur conversations with kids about the potential dangers.
"I don't care if it's a cute puppy or candy or a video game--you don't know 'em, you take off running," he said.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Ben Parker reports