Unproven stories of abduction attempts circulating online have generated fear in Metro Vancouver communities—and police are asking people not to spread unverified third-party reports on social media.
Coquitlam RCMP issued a news release on February 6 to state that a number of social media posts have been made about abduction attempts and aggressive behaviour towards women in the Tri-Cities area (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody).
Some of the reports describe a white van (or another suspicious vehicle) that followed a woman and that, therefore, the driver was attempting an abduction.
But RCMP are cautioning that the reports on social media have not been proven.
“Coquitlam RCMP has received one official report and seen several other online posts,” Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Michael McLaughlin stated in a news release. “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.”
RCMP are also asking people not to spread unproven stories, and warned people not to jump to conclusions.
“We’ve seen people drawing connections between situations and investigations that are completely unrelated and encouraging each other to carry weapons as a result”, Cpl. McLaughlin stated. “Please don’t carry weapons, and don’t try to draw conclusions about crimes based on very basic information”.
More specifically, RCMP are asking citizens to avoid sharing third-party reports, such as stories from “someone who is not a witness or victim…[who] then shares social media posts written by someone else”.
On February 7, Coquitlam RCMP provided a link in a followup news release to unsubstantiated social media posts circulating in the Baltimore, Maryland, in December about white vans attempting to abduct women for sex trafficking and selling body parts.
Similar posts have been shared and also gone viral in past years in the U.S.
Anyone who may have been the victim of or witnessed an abduction attempt is asked to call your local police (any crime in progress should be reported to 911). The Coquitlam RCMP non-emergency number is 604-945-1550.