The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department and Hesperia Unified School District school police department are seeking a motorist in connection with a reported case of child annoyance.

The initial incident happened several weeks ago: A Lime Street Elementary School student was on the way to school when a man in a gray car slowed down, offered her a ride.

"He offered, she denied, he said 'get in the car,' she didn't get in the car," HUSD police chief Bob Mosley said Monday afternoon. "There's been three young people since then that said they saw the car, and it was following them. There was no verbal contact or anything."

Law enforcement categorizes these sorts of incidents as "child annoyance."

"Since then, we've gotten three other reports from students that, according to the school, are very credible," Mosley said. The subsequent three reports do not include the motorist approaching students, merely driving slowly, apparently observing the kids.

The students all described a gray, square-backed car with the letter "P" spray-painted on the trunk.

In two cases, students at the scene provided police with a description of the car's driver.

"One [description] is a male, Hispanic," Mosley said. "The others, the kids say it was a black person with dreadlocks."

Last week, the Hesperia Unified School District sent home a letter to parents reminding them to educate their children about safety precautions.

"Over the last couple of years, the High Desert area has experienced a marked increase in the number of reported incidents of child annoyance," the letter, signed by interim superintendent Mark McKinney, reads in part.

In the spring of 2006, High Desert students, parents and school staff were on high alert after reports of multiple attempted child abductions in Apple Valley made headlines.

"Thankfully, none of these situations have resulted in any harm to our students and we'd like to keep it that way," the letter continued. "With your assistance, we will continue our efforts to protect the children in this community."

Mosley cautioned that parents should be aware of the situation, but not necessarily alarmed.

"We have to check out each and every report to make sure that it's legitimate," he said. "If someone came up and jumped out and chased a little boy or a little girl and tried to get them into a vehicle, that's an alert."

In one of the reported cases, the car was driving slowly down the street, passed the student, turned around and came back the other way.

"Do we dismiss that? No, we don't," Mosley said. "It could be someone looking for a street address. They could be looking for their own missing son or daughter. Any number of things."

What he does hope parents do, though, is read McKinney's letter and take it seriously.

"Parents just have to reinforce 'stranger danger' issues with the kids, and parents need to report it," Mosley said.

The letter sent home to parents included the following advice to help keep children safe:

* Encourage your children to use caution and stay aware of their surroundings while walking.
* Advise them to walk in groups, if at all possible.

If strangers who make them feel uncomfortable approach children, the letter advises the children to:

* Make noise to attract the attention of other people in the area.
* Run to the closest building (house, place of business) and bang on the door.
* Use their cell phone to call 911.
* Try to remember the license number of the vehicle(s) and/or a description as of the stranger(s).
* Report the incident to school officials/police/an adult in authority as soon as possible.

Although most incidents reported turn out to be nothing -- Mosley recounts the story of a car following a child that turned out to be a foster parent making sure a non-custodial parent did not snatch a child off the street on the way to school -- police can't take a chance by not taking every report seriously.

"We can't arbitrarily dismiss it, we have to make a reasonable attempt to check it out," Mosley said. "We can't drop our guard."

If you have any information on this or any case, contact the Hesperia office of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department at 947-1500 or call the anonymous WE-TIP line at (800) 782-7463.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.