Mira Mesa

Stranger Danger at Mira Mesa Park Has Parents on High Alert

NBC Universal, Inc.

A scare at a Mira Mesa park near an elementary school has parents looking for answers.

An alert on the Ring Doorbell app went out to users in the neighborhood telling them a stranger came to Sandburg Neighborhood Park and put his hand on one of three grade-school girls sitting on a bench.

“I see a lot of kids here,” parent Abraham Ghajaripaneh said.

Kids, parents, pups you name it. They’re all frequent visitors. Ghajaripaneh comes here almost daily with his four children.

“I would say it is a safe park. That is the first one I heard about, it's pretty safe,“ he said.

The app alert led to a post titled “A Creep at Sandberg Park Touching Kids.”

“It’s definitely concerning. It’s like one of those things you don’t know. You can’t imagine it would happen to you. When it happens you don’t know how to react,“ parent Praveen Padhengi said.

Padhengi got the same message. He likes coming to the park to play chess with his son who goes to school nearby.

If a person were looking for children you might consider this a target-rich environment because the park, at the corner of Avenida Del Gato and Zapata Avenue, is uniquely positioned contiguous to Sandburg Elementary School on any given school day. There are 100 to 200 students waiting around the area after the bell.

“I don’t think there is any schools around here that have a park right next to it. It’s one of those locations, a prime location with a lot of people around here,” Padhengi said.

Such was the case Thursday when parents reported a stranger who approached three girls sitting on a park bench.

Witnesses say he patted one of the girls on the back of her neck, saying it was OK. He then covered his face with his hoody and pulled up his unzipped pants. 

“His fly was open. That’s what it was,“ Padhengi said.

He walked away to sit at a nearby picnic table and the girls reported the incident to some parents in the park. They confronted the man before he left on foot, according to witnesses.

This single encounter seemed to serve as a wake-up call. What once felt like a high-traffic park safe enough to leave your children with less supervision is now being given a second thought.

“At least two of us will be here. Two adults with the kids,” Ghajaripaneh said.

San Diego police say they have not received a formal complaint but are asking members of the public that have information to call it in.

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