Western Massachusetts children approached by strangers on 2 separate occasions

Incidents in Longmeadow, Hadley highlight importance of vigilance among children

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Police in western Massachusetts are urging parents to talk to their kids after young girls were approached by strangers on two separate occasions this past week.

brian howlett
Brian Howlett, 45, of Springfield, is charged with enticement of a child, lewd, wanton, and lascivious conduct, assault, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. Image Courtesy: Longmeadow Police Department

Longmeadow Police told 22News two girls were riding their bikes to school, when a man allegedly approached them, and started to “make obscene statements.”  The girls immediately ran down Westmoreland Avenue, took out their cell phones, and dialed 911.

Police were able to find and arrest Brian Howlett, the man who allegedly approached those two girls, but police in Hadley are still searching for a suspect involved in a similar incident that took place over the weekend.

Hadley Police said an 11-year-old girl was approached by a man on Sunday. That man allegedly asked the girl to help him find his missing puppy.

Springfield College Police Lt. Kellie Cournoyer told 22News, that’s a common strategy criminal’s use. “That’s one of the oldest ones in the book. That, or, “Hey I have some candy in the van, or the car,” she said.

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Cournoyer is part of a program called Rad Kids, which teaches kids as young as 2 and 1/2 self-defense. “If somebody tries to grab for them, always use their voice. Yell: ‘You’re not my mom, you’re not my dad, I need help, somebody please help me!’ If they are being picked up, we teach the children with the RAD kids to do a hand movement in their eyes, and to kick,” she said.

They are lessons that concerned parents and grandparents like Josterh Esher of Springfield say, they’re now considering. “I didn’t worry about it as much when my children were growing up, I do much more now. My two youngest grandchildren are 6 and 9,” she said.

Cournoyer said the most important lesson a child can learn is the importance of remaining vigilant at all times.

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