Four different people harassed elementary school students over a four-day span last month.
And three of them exposed themselves in the process.
Even with a handful of tips coming from the public that are currently being followed up on by investigators, the Manteca Police Department is still looking for crucial information that may lead to the arrest of the individuals that they believe are responsible.
The first of the incidents took place on Friday, Aug. 16 on Wawona Street where a black adult male of unknown age allegedly exposed himself to students walking home from school. He fled in an older turquoise Ford Expedition at about the same time another man, described as a chubby, clean-shaven, middle-aged white male exposed himself to students just around the corner at the intersection of Wawona Street and Winters Drive. He was seen driving away in a tan colored, extended cab full-size pickup truck with a matching camper shell.
The next incident came the following Monday when a Hispanic or Filipino male, described as roughly 30-years-old with short black hair, a small of patch of facial hair just below his lip and a mole on his upper right lip area, exposed himself to students walking home from school along Northgate Drive. He fled in a smaller, newer model black passenger vehicle.
A muscular white male said to be about 5-feet, 10-inches tall with short hair and a red scruffy beard then reportedly approached a juvenile on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 20, and made inappropriate comments. He drove away in an older black vehicle with rust on the hood, and had a pit bull with him in the car.
Whether the four incidents were linked in any way is still being investigated, but according to Manteca Police Department Sgt. Jodie Estarziau, investigators are following up on several tips that were received by people who may have seen some of the men involved.
Information from the public is still being solicited, and even though enhanced patrols were dispatched immediately following to provide additional security for students, Estarziau said that parents, students and neighbors that are vigilant can be the best defense.
“I think that primarily parents and students need to be aware of their surroundings, and neighbors who live near schools know the people who get dropped off and they see the same cars every day,” Estarziau said. “If they see something that doesn’t quite fit or somebody that isn’t dropping kids off and is just parked there or doesn’t quite match with what’s going on, we ask that they call us so we can check it out.
“Safety is the most important thing, and students should always walk in numbers or with an adult or be in well-lit areas, and if somebody approaches them or they feel uncomfortable they should run – to the nearest adult they trust or the nearest residence to call the police. They need to know that.”
Last year the City of Lathrop dealt with a similar situation when a series of indecent exposure cases shook-up the tight-knit Lathrop Elementary community.
A man – who was never caught – allegedly exposed himself to a student in an on-campus bathroom during an after-school program, and may have been the same man who drove up to students in his car and exposed himself as students were walking to school.
Lathrop Police Services increased patrols around the school, and the City of Lathrop discussed partnering with Manteca Unified School District to install cameras on the campus – a project with a $70,000 price tag.
The district ended up getting a $40,000 grant, and parent groups pledged to cover the rest of the cost through fundraisers.