Two suspicious activity alerts have been issued in Platte County in as many days — one from the Park Hill School District and one from the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Although the warnings were similar, no direct link could be confirmed as of The Citizen’s deadline on Tuesday evening.At about 8 p.m. on Monday, May 18, Park Hill issued a safety alert stating the Kansas City Police Department’s (KCPD)vice squad had started investigating a man who allegedly tried to entice children. According to KCPD, the man tried offering children phones, tablets and money in order to look at sexual material or perform sexual acts. There are several possible victims, but district officials reported they do not have identifying information, nor do they know how the alleged suspect found the children or communicated with them.
Police reports indicate he may have met at least one child on the grounds of Prairie Point Elementary School, a building in the Park Hill district. The man is not an employee or recognized volunteer for the district.
The district also sent out safety tips with the alert.
The following day, the diocese issued a very similar statement regarding suspicious activity from a parishioner of St. Therese Catholic Church near Parkville, Mo.
“The alleged behavior involves minors receiving gifts of iPhones for the purpose of exploitation,” the release stated in part.
The suspect was a youth ministry volunteer at St. Therese from 2006-2008 and completed the diocese-required safe environment training in 2006.
“He is alleged to have contacted youth more lately in a variety of locations in the Northland not connected with the parish,” the statement said.
Last week, the St. Therese pastor received a report about suspicious behavior and contacted an independent ombudsman. Both then called the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline, along with contacting local law enforcement.
According to the statement, law enforcement advised the diocese not to make public statements about this case until Tuesday in order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigation.
“People in the entire community should be on alert of suspicions about a young adult male providing their children with iPhones or other digital media equipment,” the release said.
It is unknown if the situations described in the Park Hill release and the diocese’s statement are related, and no arrests have been made as of press time.
The diocese urged those with information to contact the TIPS Hotline at 474-TIPS or the Kansas City Police Department Crimes Against Children Unit at 234-5150.