By Ken MacLeod, WBZ-TVBy Ken MacLeod

GARDNER (CBS) – When police officers hit the road now in Gardner, they’re keeping an eye out for a scruffy, heavy-set, white guy in his late 50s.

“I’m very, very nervous about it,” said Tanya Pickard.  “I’m just hoping everyone stays safe — and this gets out there and everyone knows.”

During the past two weeks, the man has pulled his old, gray sedan alongside women walking alone – and offered them a ride.

At least two have made the mistake of accepting, and received an eye-opening earful.

“He gets them into the vehicle and his questions turn quickly to a sexual nature,” said Gardner police Lt. Eric McAvene.

“It made the young ladies realize they better get out of the car pretty quick,” added Deputy Chief John Bernard. “He was asking sexually explicit questions.”

Neither of those women were hurt.

But there have been other incidents – such as the case of the female jogger who summoned help by cellphone when the same guy drove past her several times staring.

“Went past her multiple times,” said McAvene, “to the point where she knew it was out of the ordinary.”

Police find themselves in a bit of a dilemma, because the guys creepy behavior doesn’t rise to the level of a sex crime at this point. But they fear he’s working up the confidence to commit one.

“We’re afraid it could lead up to a kidnapping possibly or an assault inside the vehicle — or both,” said a concerned Bernard.

So police have gone public with a warning about the sex-talking man in the gray car – which may have Vermont tags and two colorful bumper stickers on the back – and are asking others who’ve had encounters to come forward.

“Some people don’t call,” McAvene said. “Some people don’t think it’s a big deal. They say ‘Ah, somebody just pulled up to me and kept going.’ But we want the phone calls.  We want the information flowing in.”

Of course, the best advice is of the old-fashioned variety: Don’t accept a ride with anyone you don’t know – period.

“It’s stupid,” one woman told WBZ-TV. “You see someone like that you keep walking – get away as quick as you can.”

Police don’t think it will be long before the guy attempts another creepy rendezvous — unless they identify him first and sort out his intentions.


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