A couple of months back, on a Sunday afternoon; I was in Safeway buying a greeting card when I noticed a man hiding behind an end-cap, (shelving) watching some kids. I couldn’t see the kids but I could hear them and at first I assumed he was playing a game of peek-a-boo with his own kids. Something was off though. I stayed right there next to him pretending to look at cards and watching him pretend to look at the box of crackers, and when I finally made him uncomfortable, he moved away. The minute he moved I looked around the corner to see the kids and found that there were a group of young teens, maybe 13 or 14 years old, three girls and one boy. The group left one teen sitting on the floor, (I have no idea what she was doing there.) so I started to walk over to her and I saw the man in the next aisle, now perpendicular to this one girl. He was pretending to look at soda, but he kept looking right at her. He was so intent on his mission that he almost didn’t see me. There was something about the young lady he was watching that was vulnerable. I saw it right away and believe me, he saw it too.
I walked up to the girl and asked her if she knew the man, who now, was directly behind me maybe 15 feet away. She looked around me and said no. I told her to go get her friends and get out of there because he had been watching her for at least 10 minutes. She scooted.
I called Safeway the next day and reported the incident—but was not asked my name or anything else so I didn’t expect it to go anywhere.
A week later—on a Saturday afternoon, same time of day as the previous week, I see the man walking through the parking lot as I am driving out. I drove out to the street, turned around, came back into the lot, and saw him still walking with his bag, so I followed him. I took out my phone and while driving started snapping pictures of him. I followed him to his truck, parked outside of the Radio Shack. I moved one aisle over and parked right behind him.
During the next 15 minutes, the man’s behavior was strange to say the least—alarming to anyone that knows about predators. He opened his truck door but didn’t get in, he put the bag in the back of his truck and pretended to tie the bags handles together for a ridiculous amount of time. He kept his eye on the Dollar store. He walked back and forth to the nearby garbage bin, one small piece of rubbish at a time, eyes always elsewhere. Truck door open all the time.
He gave no indication that he felt or knew he was being watched and/or photographed. I took pictures of him, his truck and finally a close-up of his license plate.
When I got home, I looked at The Megan’s Law website to see if he was listed. He was not. I sent the information I had along with the photos to the Novato Police Dept. A few days later, I received an email from the NPD thanking me, and letting me know they will look into the matter. (I reported to Safeway again- again no response.)
My purpose for sharing this now is that I hope you will educate your kids and yourselves to this kind of thing. Kids need to pay attention to their surroundings, to who is around them and most of all they need to tune into their intuition. If they are lacking intuition, then you as parents, or educators need to help them cultivate extreme awareness.
Sexual predators are everywhere. Often they are someone you know, some normal looking person with a normal job. They could be in your church, your school, the neighborhood or your grocery store, sometimes, they can be in your own family. None of this is new behavior—it’s not a product of the times. It existed when I was a kid and long before that too. It’s not just Marin County, or California… it’s a nation wide problem.
We have had far too many missing kids, murdered kids, molested kids to ignore this issue and pretend that we live in a safe world. We don’t. But, it would be a lot safer if people started paying attention to what is around them, and if people weren’t afraid to speak up when they saw something not quite right. When it comes to kid safety and well-being, it’s everyone’s business.