By Beth Germano

GARDNER (CBS) – Two Central Massachusetts communities are on alert after several teenage girls say a suspicious man approached them.

Parents were extra vigilant outside an elementary school in Gardner, along with the extra presence of police, following reports this week of an older man with blonde hair in a white van approaching two younger teenage girls, offering candy and urging them to get in. Police say they ran from the scene.

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One mother outside the Elm Street Elementary School says she decided to have her daughter dismissed early. “Today I just felt something suspicious. I wanted to get her out early and make sure she’s safe,” she said.

The scenario was frightening enough that some parents came to school themselves rather than rely on the school bus to bring their children home. “I got a phone call that there’s a white van and a man trying to lure kids into the car. It’s very scary,” said parent Allison Moss.

A Gardner police vehicle outside a school on Wednesday (Photo credit: Beth Germano/WBZ-TV)

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It’s similar to reports in nearby Hubbardston where two 11 year old girls, waiting for the school bus on Simonds Hill Road, were also approached by someone in a white van. Police say this time the man was using a cellphone and trying to videotape or take pictures of them.

At a local boat ramp, a fourteen-year-old girl out jogging says she was also approached though the suspect vehicle was a dark sedan. “He had Einstein-like hair as she described it, asking her some questions about where she lived that made her feel uncomfortable,” said Hubbardston police Sgt. Ryan Couture.

In all these cases the children ran from the suspect. Police were seen questioning the drivers of vehicles matching the description as a precaution.

It has rattled nerves and has schools putting families on alert with students taking notice.

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High school freshman Cameron Latulippe says she asked for a ride home rather than walk. “Because of what’s happening I wanted to be extra careful,” she said.

Beth Germano