PALATKA, Fla. – Putnam County deputies are asking the community to be aware of a man who is reportedly approaching women in the downtown Palatka area.
According to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, a man, who's said to have a thick accent and speak in broken English, has approached women walking alone and has asked if they can help him with his car, where the nearest Indian restaurant is located or if they are single.
The Sheriff's Office said he possibly drives a dark blue Volkswagen sedan.
Deputies said he has targeted women in the courthouse parking lot, downtown by the riverfront and near Second Street. The Sheriff's Office believes the majority of the interactions have happened in broad daylight, including one that happened while a woman was walking along the riverfront during her lunch break.
One woman posted on social media, saying she was leaving the downtown bar Uncorked and Unwind when a man with a thick accent in a dark sedan wouldn’t stop following her and asking her for help, even though she repeatedly said no. Across the street is the Hampton Inn, where staff told detectives that the man, who could be from South Carolina, has recently been frequenting.
Hannah Matthews lives outside of Palatka, but said the encounters are concerning and, because of them, she will be more alert on her weekly walks.
"You kind of like to feel safe and be able to explore the area without having to think about things like that," she said.
Matthews said she's also thankful for the police presence downtown.
The Sheriff's Office said the man was not reported to 911, which is why it does not have a more detailed description of him, but that there have been several social media posts about encounters with him.
Deputies urge anyone who has encountered this person to call 911 immediately and do not just post on social media. Anyone who has been approached in the last 24 hours is asked to call the non-emergency line at 386-329-0800 to file a report.
For now, the Sheriff’s Office said, no crime has been committed, but there is reason to consider the man’s behavior suspicious.
Detectives continue to investigate.