KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A year after the first of three reported instances of child molestation or attempted abduction on military installations in Kaiserslautern, the cases remain unsolved and law enforcement remains vigilant.
“We have no suspects in custody at this time,” said Lt. Col. Eric Springer, the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron and senior community law enforcement officer for the Kaiserslautern Military Community. “We continue to investigate every person of interest related to any one of these cases.”
Since a child was reported to have been molested April 24, there have been no new cases reported, Springer said.
Although no children have been reported missing, military investigators have requested assistance from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, which has sent two representatives from the States, said Robert Lowery Jr., executive director for the organization’s Missing Children Division.
“Sometimes we can offer a different perspective just based on some things we’ve seen here in the U.S.,” he said, or suggest techniques that have been used in other cases.
The organization has provided two former law enforcement officers with experience in child abduction cases, Lowery said.
“We’re supporting OSI, which frankly has done a tremendous amount of work on this case,” he said of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, which is working with the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
The first incident, a reported molestation, occurred last August, but was not reported until January. Soon after, an alleged abduction was reported.
On Thursday military authorities briefly locked down Vogelweh Housing Area after a woman reported a stranger appeared to be interacting with her daughters, ages 3 and 5.
The woman reported that after momentarily losing sight of her girls while at one of the base’s playgrounds, she saw them with an unknown man, according to base officials. She reported that the man departed without saying a word when she approached.
“Although the incident was suspicious, there’s no specific information to lead law enforcement officials to believe the stranger was attempting to abduct or molest the girls,” said Brig. Gen. Charles K. Hyde, 86th Airlift Wing commander, in an interview Friday.
Still, immediately after law enforcement officials were notified of the incident, they conducted a sweep of the entire base on foot and “locked down” the base for 30 minutes, keeping all vehicles from exiting, said Hyde, who is the commander of all Air Force installations in the KMC.
“Our security forces questioned everybody leaving base,” he said. After the lock-down was lifted, drivers exiting the base had to stop for an ID card check and security forces looked in backseats and trunks. No one fitting the description of the person in the report – a male of medium build with a short haircut wearing a blue shirt - was found, Hyde said.
“We would like any potential witnesses or anyone who may be involved to come forward and contact our law enforcement,” Hyde said. “Community safety remains our No. 1 priority.”
Military investigators believe the three reported cases may be linked, based on a similar physical description of a male suspect wearing Army camouflage pants, and the similar ages of the victims, all young girls.
The incidents have occurred on Ramstein and Vogelweh Housing Area.
“We’re working on the assumption that we’re looking for one person,” Springer said of the suspect. “We’re also maintaining the possibility it could be more than one person.”
Springer said this week that investigators don’t believe two reported incidents on Vogelweh Housing in May and June involving an 11-year-old boy and a 17-year-old girl are related to the other cases, based on the older ages of the individuals and other circumstances.
Several safety measures have been added to KMC bases recently. Concealed cameras are installed in areas where children may be playing or walking, Springer said. And basement door card-key locks have been placed on approximately 50 stairwell buildings throughout the KMC, a project costing about $80,000, according to base officials.
Law enforcement patrols continue, Springer said. “We have people out in plain clothes and uniforms more so than we have before,” he said, adding that vigilance by parents, neighbors and other adults “is what’s really going to make the difference.”
Lowery, of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said cases involving pedophiles can be difficult to solve because often witnesses aren’t readily available, details can be sketchy, and someone who has a sexual attraction to children isn’t easily identifiable.
“They’re often leading a double life that is hidden from others,” he said.
Parents should tell their children that it’s OK to tell an adult authority figure “no” if they’re trying to do something that makes them uncomfortable, whether it’s a family member, family friend or a stranger, he said. Parents should also tell their children if an adult tries to grab them, “to kick, scream, bring as much attention to the situation as you can,” he said. “Generally, assertive children are often let go by these abductors.”