RCMP are investigating a case of possible child luring after a man in his 50s came from the United States and met a girl in Nanaimo at a public park.
Police issued a press release about the incident, which happened at about 1:30 p.m. on June 29 at Robins Park.
Two City of Nanaimo employees “with a keen sense of awareness” were getting the field ready for a ball game when they saw the man and girl sitting close to one another in the bleachers.
“By their interactions and body gestures, it did not appear that it was a father-daughter relationship,” noted the release. “After watching them interact for some time, the witnesses decided they needed to report what they observed to the police.”
The girl, who police say is between the ages of 11-15, told police that she thought the man was 25 years old and said the two met via an online platform called Vsing in which users record themselves singing and through which they can chat with other users.
“She said the two of them were nothing more than good friends,” the release noted.
The man, who was actually 53, told officers he had arrived in Nanaimo that day after travelling from the U.S. Midwest.
“The individual tried unconvincingly to tell the officer that he and the girl were just friends. When asked, he did not deny that his intentions could be seen as being sexual in nature,” RCMP noted in the release.
Police say there was insufficient evidence at the time of the incident to detain the man, and so he was allowed to leave. He was told to depart Nanaimo immediately and return home. That evening, the Canada Border Services Agency confirmed that the man had crossed the border back to the states.
“These are alarming stories and they scare people, but people need to be scared at times to realize there are dangers in our community,” said reserve Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman. “There are people who are taking advantage of our youths due to their online activities and this situation could have turned out terribly if it hadn’t been for the two City of Nanaimo employees who took it upon themselves to make one phone call. That’s all it took. One phone call. Their sense of awareness was spot on … They did the right thing and called the police.”
The press release noted the investigation is being “aggressively pursued” by Nanaimo RCMP as well by a U.S. agency.