A POLICE chief says there is no evidence "that a gang or individuals are trying to abduct our children" in Worcester, after a vigilante group was set up in response to reports of men approaching youngsters.

A Facebook group, Help Save Our Children in Worcester, which now has more than 3,000 members, was started in response to several reports of children being approached by men in recent weeks. Volunteers are asked to patrol near schools and report suspicious activity.

In response, local police commander Superintendent Steph Brighton said: “I am aware of the heightened concerns in Worcester regarding a number of perceived incidents that have been reported across social media and within the press.

“I understand that there is a heightened public concern that children may be at risk and I want to reassure you that no information received indicates, in any way, that a gang or individuals are working in Worcester trying to abduct our children.”

Supt Brighton added: “We previously wrote to all the local schools to inform parents and carers of the children in our community of our investigations and to inform them of the increased police presence in around the schools for the purpose of reassurance, following reports made to us of suspicious activity being directed toward children.

“Protecting children is of course a priority for us and we have investigated every single report that has been made to us. A number of these describe a variety of suspicious vehicles and activities.

"To date, despite the good intent of the members of the public reporting, none of these suspicious activities have transpired into criminal activity.

“There are just two unlinked reports that we are investigating in further detail to establish the full facts and details of any activity criminal or otherwise.

“We understand the community’s desire for incidents to be resolved and will always work with the public in order to achieve this aim, however, we would like to ask members of the public to refrain from posting on social media groups and pages, but rather report matters directly to the police, as we have observed some misleading and inaccurate information being reported which could potentially jeopardise individual’s personal safety and any future investigations.

“One such example of a report with good intent was where a man in a black vehicle was near to a supermarket taking a picture on a phone and an observant member of the public felt this behaviour was suspicious. Officers spoke with the man who explained that he had just purchased the phone and was testing the camera and an associated App out.

“Naturally, officers checked his device and we able to confirm that nothing untoward had occurred – this incident was then closed.

“At this time, we continue to have additional officers on patrol to reassure members of public and I would encourage you to speak with the officers on patrol near to schools with any concerns you may have.

“For the latest information please visit the West Mercia Police website, our official social media channels, speak directly to officers or get in touch with your Safer Neighbourhood Team.”

The Worcester News previously reported how a man in a silver BMW was seen acting suspiciously near St Barnabas CE Primary School and Bishop Perowne CE College on September 10 and again on September 14.

In another report, a 15-year-old girl, Ellesse Robinson, said she was approached by men in a car as she walked up Astwood Road.

Last Monday, September 21, three girls said they were approached by a group of men in Barker Street.