Parents have been warned to be vigilants after Essex Police ramped up patrols in Colchester town centre due to a man seen “acting suspiciously” around a teenage schoolgirl.

The incident took place near Hospital Lane, just off Lexden Road, at around 3.35pm on Friday.

The lane is located near to several secondary schools, including Colchester Royal Grammar School, Colchester High School and St Mary’s School for Girls.

Lexden Road is also a busy walking route for schoolchildren on their way to St Benedict’s and Philip Morant schools.

The suspect has been described by the victim as being white and wore dark clothing with a hood up during the incident.

He also wore a dark coloured face mask.

Ward councillor Simon Crow (Con, Castle) urged residents to remain vigilant and report suspicious behaviour to Essex Police.

He said: “Any incident like this is always very worrying, especially at this time of year when it gets dark early.

“I would urge all parents to ensure their children know they must be vigilant at all times and tell them about anyone who approaches them or behaves suspiciously, or report it to their school.”

Essex Police are treating it as an isolated incident but have increased patrols in the area to reassure residents.

Acting Chief Inspector Jon Evans, District Commander for Colchester, said: “I know that reports of this might be concerning to residents and parents but we believe this is an isolated incident and we have put plans in place to reassure and protect the public.

“We have increased patrols on Lexden Road and Crouch Street during school pick-up and drop-off times this week.

“The incident was reported to us on Sunday and we immediately put a patrol plan in place and we’re continuing to review CCTV in the area.

“While our officers continue their enquiries, we’re asking anyone with information about this incident to come forward.”

Witnesses should call Colchester CID on 101, quoting reference number 42/191795/20.

Residents can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.