A local student darted into an uptown business to evade a man who was following alongside her in his car as she walked home on her first day of high school.
The Grade 9 student had left New Westminster Secondary School about 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6 and was walking toward Eighth Avenue, when a man in a car pulled up beside her in his car and began keeping paces with her.
“The passenger window was open, and he was attempting to speak to her. He was ‘chatting her up,’ and asking for her phone number, all the while keeping pace with her in his car. She ignored him as best she could; it was clear that she was not interested in speaking with him,” said the girl’s mother Christi, who asked that her surname name be withheld. “As she got to the corner of Sixth Street and Eighth Avenue, he told her to meet him in the Esso parking lot, so he could get her number, and then he drove around the corner and into the parking lot.”
According to the mom, her 14-year-old daughter was “very uncomfortable” with the man’s behaviour. She walked briskly past the entrance to the gas station’s parking lot, passing in front of the car which the man had parked in the parking lot.
“The man then pulled out again, and kept pace with her as she continued down Sixth Street, passing the G&F Credit Union. She crossed Hamilton Street, and ducked into a fast-food restaurant, but came out again after a minute or two. The man was waiting for her,” Christi said. “She walked a bit further and ducked into the Royal City Mail & Business Services store. She waited there for several minutes.”
From there, the girl called a friend, who agreed to let her into his nearby apartment building on Hamilton Street.
“When she emerged from the Royal City Mail location, she could no longer see the man, and hurried over to the friend's apartment building,” said her mom. “She called me from there, and I came and picked her up immediately.”
The New West mom said her daughter was “quite distressed” and unnerved by the man’s behaviour.
Christi contacted the high school and the New Westminster Police Department about the incident.
“This student did the right thing by listening to her intuition and finding refuge in a nearby business,” said NWPD Staff-Sgt. Jeff Scott in a statement to the Record.
According to the NWPD, officers searched for evidence, including CCTV footage. The file has since been concluded, but anyone who has information and hasn’t spoken to police can call New West police at 604-525-5411.
Christi worries the man will cruise the school again and encourages students who experience a similar incident to report it to the police and school. She said it’s very disconcerting for a middle-aged man to be trying to coerce a 14-year-old girl to give him her number or go somewhere with him.
“My daughter has seen the car once outside the school, a few days after the incident, but did not get a clear look at the driver or the license plate,” she said in an email to the Record. “She has been regaining confidence as time goes by, and she has not been harassed since. Both of my daughters are very concerned about the shootings and stabbings in the Greater Vancouver area, and incidents like this do nothing to make them feel any safer.”
The girl described the vehicle as being a light-coloured (possibly taupe) older model car with a full trunk (not a hatchback.)