LATHROP – A school zone is supposed to be a safe zone.
But when a 10-year-old girl was subjected to a man exposing himself back in October, fears of a flasher that had erupted the community in concern last year were reignited.
A man that was believed to have exposed himself in an on-campus bathroom after school in 2012 was never caught, and despite giving a description of both the man and the SUV that were responsible for the incident earlier this year, he has also evaded the radar of Lathrop Police Services and the San Joaquin County Sherriff’s Department.
And they’re still looking for the help of the community in identifying the man they believe is responsible and bringing him to justice.
Immediately after the incident was reported, representatives from Lathrop Police Services began working with Manteca Unified officials to notify parents of what happened and distributing a description of the man. His characteristics and features – as well as the car he was driving – appeared to be different than the descriptions that had been reported to police for similar occurrences in the past.
Police responded by stepping up patrols in the area and keeping a closer eye on the students as they made their way to-and-from school. Lathrop Elementary’s location in the middle of a mixed residential area means that plenty of students walk to school, and dozens of parents flood into the area twice daily to drop off or pick up their children.
The City Council got involved, and discussions about installing cameras on-campuses – at the cost of $70,000 per site – raged. But the issue didn’t go away. Another man exposed himself to a Lathrop Elementary student a week later..
The search for those responsible continued as an ongoing case for the department, but represented an alarming trend that appeared to grow to other communities. Manteca had a rash of indecent exposure incidents that involved schoolchildren reported over the course of five days back in August. Four different men were believed to be responsible, and none seemed to fit the most recent description of the Lathrop culprit.
Police believe that a heavyset white male, approximately 50-years-old with a black/gray goatee, was behind the wheel of a 2000s model red Ford Explorer or Expedition that made three passes by the girl before he finally pulled up, leaned back, and exposed himself before driving off.
Anybody with information is urged to contact the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department at (209) 468-4400 or anonymously “text-a-tip” by sending a message to 274637 (the numbers spell CRIMES), entering SJSO followed by a space, and the crime tip.