RCMP in Richmond, B.C., issued an unusual warning Tuesday about a potential kidnapping of an Asian student from an elementary school in the next several weeks in the Vancouver suburb.
Police received the information earlier Tuesday but wouldn't specify when or where they think the kidnapping might occur. Nor would they say how they got the information that prompted the warning.
"We are not certain when this may occur or if, in fact, it is going to occur," said Cpl. Jennifer Pound. "The information we have is extremely minimal.
"But we want to get it out there so that we can advise the public to take the necessary precautions."
There are 38 elementary schools in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, according to the Richmond School District's website.
'We understand that this is going to instill a lot of fear into the parents … What we are trying to do is create a place where they can discuss with their kids.'— Cpl. Jennifer Pound, Richmond RCMP
The vague police warning will likely cause many parents to panic, but Pound said police are taking it "extremely" seriously and want to be pro-active.
"We understand that this is going to instill a lot of fear into the parents … What we are trying to do is create a place where they can discuss with their kids," she said.
Pound said that an Asian student in particular may be targetted.
"It appears as though the race may be Asian so we're paying particular attention to that," she said.
"We're looking at doing patrols in the areas of the elementary schools and paying attention to the Asian community."
To send letters to parents
The Richmond School District was informed within an hour after police received the information and was preparing letters to send to parents Wednesday morning, said Bruce Beairsto, the superintendent of schools.
"I was shocked. I've never seen such a [police] press release, nor have I encountered such a situation," Beairsto told CBC News.
"We work very close with the police and, if they have such information and are releasing it, we have to believe that it's credible."
Parents are asked to be on the lookout in or around elementary schools and talk to their children about what to do if they are approached by strangers.
Parents are asked to tell their children that "it's OK to misbehave" when they feel threatened by strangers on the streets, Pound said.
"If they [students] are approached and they feel that something is wrong, it's OK for them to scream or yell or do whatever they can to get people's attention," she said.
The RCMP serious crime unit, youth section, general duty and bike section are all investigating the case.
Beairsto said school staff will talk to elementary school students Wednesday about protecting themselves while going to and from school.
"I am not going to second guess the police because they are doing their business, and I presume that they know more than I know so we will do what we can do to assist them."