Parents and students on alert following scares

In an incident on Jan 11, a female UWC student waiting for the bus in Dover Road was approached by a man driving a van who asked her to get into the vehicle. Police said that the van driver offered a ride to the student as it was raining that day.
In an incident on Jan 11, a female UWC student waiting for the bus in Dover Road was approached by a man driving a van who asked her to get into the vehicle. Police said that the van driver offered a ride to the student as it was raining that day.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Police have determined that the people in two kidnap scares involving international students had no ill intent, but students and parents are not taking any chances.

Many students from the two schools that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said the van driver in one case should have been more aware that his actions were alarming. Parents and students said they would still be cautious.

Said Tanglin Trust School student Julia Nasser, 12: "It is just creepy - you shouldn't be offering strangers rides in vans."

United World College (UWC) of South East Asia student Leon Lee, 14, said that even if the driver in the UWC case claimed he was helping the girl, "it isn't really a comfortable feeling being helped by someone you don't know in that way".

Corporate secretary Ellen Tsai, 37, who accompanies her young son to Tanglin Trust School every morning, said she would continue to do so and not take chances, especially in the light of the cases: "I would rather err on the side of caution."

Even so, some students were not overly perturbed.

Tanglin Trust School student Jeremy Nanayakkara, 14, said that while he was not too worried, he would still keep an eye out for unusual behaviour. He said that, rightly or wrongly, there is a sense that there are rich children in international schools, and this could make them kidnap targets.

Mr Alfred Tan, chief executive officer of the Singapore Children's Society, said parents should constantly educate their children not to talk to strangers nor accept any offers that have not been arranged by them or an adult they know. Even if it is raining heavily, children should not accept ride offers from someone they do not know, he said.

Mr Tan also suggested that the prevalence of private-hire cars, such as those of Grab and Uber, may lead to children being more accepting of an offer of a lift from strangers. "These do not look like typical taxis. So, young children can get confused and think that as long as the offer looks legitimate, it is safe to hop in," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2018, with the headline 'Parents and students on alert following scares'. Print Edition | Subscribe