Mounties are investigating after a stranger tried to grab a nine-year-old boy as he walked to school in an area of Courtenay that has seen a number of similar incidents, according to RCMP.

The boy was walking to school on Willemar Avenue Tuesday morning between 17th Street and 20th Street when an unknown man grabbed his backpack, causing the child to pull away and make his way to school, where he told a principal what happened.

Police say the man is described as middle-aged, white, with short grey and dark brown hair and was not clean-shaven.

He was wearing a black toque, a dark green puffy jacket that looks old and spoke with a "garbled, deep voice," according to RCMP.

Officers were unable to track down the man immediately after being notified and say a major crime unit is looking to speak with any witnesses.

"This area of Courtenay has quite a bit of traffic in the morning when it’s time to get our children to school," said Comox Valley RCMP spokeswoman Const. Monika Terragni. "It is very likely that someone in the area saw the suspect, or even what happened."

Police say the attempted grabbing happened in an area where three other suspicious circumstances have occurred.

In November, an 11-year-old girl reported being approached by a man in a black van who pulled up as she was riding her bike and offered her bags of candy.

It's unclear if the two suspicious incidents are linked.

"We are definitely looking at any sort of links or associations between previous occurrences and this one," said Terragni.

Anyone with information is asked to call Mounties at 250-338-1321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.