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Suspicious van has Gwinnett parents on high alert

SUWANEE — A pair of incidents involving a suspicious van have parents in northern Gwinnett on high alert.

Gwinnett County Police Officer Aaren Dieffenbacher — a member of the department’s “community oriented police services,” or COPS, neighborhood watch program — issued a notice Thursday to those living in the Buford, Sugar Hill and Suwanee areas.

According to the notice, there was a recent incident in the Hedgerows subdivision, located off Camp Branch Road between Ivy Creek and Wallace roads in Buford. Two men in a white van — one believed white, another Hispanic — were reportedly in the neighborhood “asking several children if they needed a ride home,” Dieffenbacher said.

“The children ran inside their home and told their parents who in turn called us to the scene,” he said.

A “very similar” second incident occurred in the Vanderbilt subdivision off Level Creek Road, about nine miles away and just down the street from North Gwinnett High School.

Kelly Moniri’s family, now including three small children, has lived in the Vanderbilt subdivision for about seven years. She said she was “definitely nervous” about the recent developments.

“Obviously it’s scary because you hear stuff like that all the time on the news, and usually with bad outcomes,” Moniri said.

“We have a ton of children in this neighborhood and many of them are out, especially on my end of the cul-de-sac,” she added. “They’re always out playing, riding their bikes, walking their dogs.”

Moniri praised the city of Sugar Hill for forwarding the alert as a public service announcement.

Additional information about the incidents was hard to come by Thursday. Dieffenbacher urged anyone who observes something suspicious to call 911.

“I can’t stress enough to call 911,” he wrote in his alert. “(We) would rather respond to a call and it turn out to be a false alarm (than) to find out after the fact that someone witnessed something and did not report it when they saw it.”