RCMP clarifies statements after public backlash
By Jessica Berget, Assistant Editor
One man working as a home improvement specialist reports he was harassed for driving a white van after the rumours went viral.
After a slew of social media posts going around about a white van following women in the tri-cities area, Coquitlam RCMP have asked people to stop spreading these posts as they “should not be trusted.”
The posts describe a white van or another suspicious looking vehicle following a woman which can be misconstrued as an abduction attempt. Corporal Michael McLaughlin of the Coquitlam RCMP says in a release that these posts are doing more harm than their intended good and are not based on any facts. “We have an open mind, but so far there is no evidence to support that any abduction attempt has actually happened. If we see any real risk, we will let the public know. In the meantime, we are asking you to stop spreading unproven rumours. Those rumours are scaring people.”
McLaughlin adds that these posts encourage women to carry weapons and that people are connecting dots between other missing persons cases of BC women that are not at all related. “Please don’t carry weapons, and don’t try to draw conclusions about crimes based on very basic information.” The release also says that there are many reasons why someone would be driving slowly in a neighbourhood.
The RCMP has since clarified their release in another statement after public anger of the use of the work “rumours” made people feel their concerns were brushed off. In their clarified statement they say there is no evidence or information to support a spike in abduction attempts and ask everyone to report any suspicious behaviour to them and not to post them on social media. They say this is the best course of action as officers can gather evidence and diagnose the situation. Their reports are also given to crime analysists, frontline and intelligence officers, crime reduction units, and foot patrol officers to combine the efforts in keeping communities safe and determining case facts. The BC RCMP also states that they receive over 20,000 missing person case reports every year, and many people are located within a week. In 2021, seven people have been reported missing in BC.
Rumours and misinformation being spread on social media and scaring people is nothing new, but it is concerning when it affects real world situations. A 2019 article from CNN describes the same reports about a white van circulating on social media with some posts going as far back as 2016. One man working as a home improvement specialist reports he was harassed for driving a white van after the rumours went viral. There are many professions where people drive white vans.