Hey, there! Log in / Register

Police, mayor: No outbreak of child-abducting perverts driving around Boston in white vans

Police Commissioner William Gross and Mayor Marty Walsh said yesterday there's no truth to stories, circulating on Facebook, that Boston has been hit by a wave of vans driven by evil people trying to abduct children or young women.

The stories began spreading about a month ago. People are now posting photos of white vans with out-of-state plates - sometimes with prominent locks on the rear and side doors - from Mt. Vernon and Selden streets in Dorchester to Dudley Square to the shopping mall on American Legion Highway between Canterbury and Mt. Hope streets in Roslindale.

One account claimed a man and woman would approach young women in Dorchester and Mattapan claiming to sell incense, but the substance was really a drug that would knock the women out, letting the couple drag them to their van.

On Tuesday, state Rep. Liz Miranda (Roxbury, Dorchester), wrote "there have been many reported missing children and abductions in and around Boston" and provided a series of tips for reducing the odds of children getting kidnapped.

But it's just not true, Gross and Walsh said yesterday.

Gross said police have not found any instances of children being abducted - or of white-van people trying to kidnap kids - over the past month.

Gross said he would be the first to go public if kids were being kidnapped like that, both to alert the public and to seek help capturing suspects.

Gross compared the current reports to a spate of reports in 2016 of roaming armed clowns.

In several of the reports, people who spotted the vans said they called 911 - and that the van drivers departed after police came to investigate them.

In reply to this article, Miranda wrote on Twitter today:

Due to reports online & in community, our neighborhoods are alarmed. I created the list to help parents & citizens to be prepared & to prepare kids if they should experience an incident.

It was shared 700xs because the community which has a difficult relationship with both police & government ( which now I am among). Media bias & systemic issues make it incredibly hard for our community. As a former youth worker & organizer I know first hand low income, of color, lgbtqia youth are incredibly vulnerable. Although we don’t want communities falsely alarmed. I want my community prepared. Human trafficking is real & if the community is scared, as their Rep I want to support them. Their issues are mine too .

Neighborhoods: 

Ad:

Do you like how UHub is doing? Consider a contribution. Thanks!

Comments

back in the 80's?

up
Voting closed 13

In particular, it's worth pointing out that many professional vans have locks on them because if you have expensive equipment in a van, the lock built into the door might not really be secure enough for you.

up
Voting closed 19

Aren't those Amazon delivery vans?

up
Voting closed 24

Sheesh! Every time one of these fake-news/social-media generated panics happens I'm reminded of the Twilight Zone episode called "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" (feat. Claude Aikins!). I won't spoil the plot but every American should see it, esp. in the context of what's happening today. Then think real hardabout how well we do critical thinking, how quick we are to dismiss professional journalists (WaPo, Times, CNN, NPR etc) but how we will lap up any slop that's "trending" on SM even though deep down we understand it could be Russian trolls, domestic trolls, kooks and/or nitwits. FTR, I think UHub/Adam does a great job of documentation/sources etc. and his track record is excellent. If the "white vans" were a real thing, I would expect UHub to have it first. (rant/off).

up
Voting closed 18

At least not the ones in accounts that mention special locks on the doors.

up
Voting closed 5

At the bottom, which I added after she saw my original post.

Yes, there are issues of particular concern to the black community that white people like me, living in a cave up on a hill somewhere, are not particularly aware of. I willl admit that beyond, perhaps, breaking crime reports and maybe news of new development, I do a horrible job covering the black community (communities, really) in Boston (I don't really do all that great a job covering any other communities, but that's another matter).

But the issue here, at least for me, is that we're dealing with a very specific set of alleged incidents that are being discussed by a rapidly growing number of people on Facebook - I was tagged in a post this morning about a van in Roslindale that already had something like 1,400 shares. People are really concerned. That's why I specifically asked Gross about this yesterday, after a press conference about an entirely different matter (I didn't seek out Walsh, but he was standing right there and jumped in).

So there may well be real issues about black women being abducted and the news not being reported, but I don't think that's the case here, and I (obviously) thought it worth reporting that city officials are saying there have been no abductions recently.

up
Voting closed 33

Not true you guys are NOT paying attention there are as of Feb 2019 There Are 64,000 Missing Black Women and Girls in the United States and No One Seems to Care.. Stop saying these incidents are untrue and unfounded. I have friends who work in places and although we know that some things are widely marginalized to create hysteria these incidents ARE not being reported

Cited by# https://www.blacknews.com/news/64000-missing-black-women-girls-in-the-un...

up
Voting closed 4

I cover Boston. If somebody *is* kidnapped here, I'll write about it, but I barely know what happens in Framingham, let along Birmingham.

The press conference that Gross and Walsh held was about a guide (which I need to write about) for Boston nightclubs and bars to reduce the odds that patrons will be kidnapped and worse.

The city and bar owners agreed to work on following two incidents this past spring involving young women kidnapped after they left Boston bars. One woman was held captive for several days, the other was murdered. You may recall those cases - because the media covered the hell out of them.

up
Voting closed 23

I’m sorry but what about the little girl who was hit over the head and was almost abducted but got away and ran home in her underwear in walnut park before thanksgiving???? It was a black male in his 50s with a mole and a scar on his face and ain’t shit been done or said about that, if anyone actually cares then I would love to give you the mother’s contact info because she’s got a traumatized little girl who is being bullied about her incident by her friends and is currently being escorted to and from school by her single mom because the poor kid is scared shitless as is her mom, as am I that this stuff is left unexplained, inner city colored folk that’s why, don’t deal w them right??? That’s how we do it in Boston, everyone is fuckin wack we are talking about a little girl and her safety, that’s real if the threat was actually spreading all over the city no one would warn us anyways, pretend everything is okay that’s what we do in Boston, Marty Walsh is not 1/4 of the mayor menino was, I’ll leave you with this...methadone mile

up
Voting closed 7

From your linked article:

A 2010 study about the media coverage of missing children in the United States discovered that only 20 percent of reported stories focused on missing Black children
despite it corresponding to 33 percent of the overall missing children cases.

20% vs 33% would appear on its face to be evidence of some degree of media bias, but not grossly excessive media bias.

(background: US Census identifies about 13% of the population as African American)

The 2010 study cited, refers specifically to television news coverage, and not to any other form of reporting.

It's disappointing, and not surprising, that the media pay much more attention to crimes committed against upper middle class white suburban kids than to crimes committed against kids living in poverty and obscurity. And distorted media coverage leads to distorted policy making.

But nothing in any of that suggests that there's an epidemic of stranger kidnappings of children of any race.

up
Voting closed 17

This is a national epidemic

Really? I thought all of the data point to stranger abductions of children happening so infrequently as to be on a par with death by lightning strike, and that claiming otherwise is pure hysteria-mongering.

up
Voting closed 23

It's not an epidemic. It's a hysteria.

up
Voting closed 19

Clearly you're not living in MY black America. Are you in OZ or Wonderland. How dare you? That's the problem right there. People assuming we're crying wolf when it's been under reported for too long.

up
Voting closed 18

It would be easy to get me to change my position and stop claiming that this is a classic example of moral panic, by presenting me with facts.

up
Voting closed 17

Or GTFO.

up
Voting closed 10

We all know that issues in minority communities are underreported.

HOWEVER you need to show that reported ABDUCTIONS are being ignored if you are to be taken seriously here, or that for some obscure reason people in this community are not reporting to police that someone has been abducted!

Which would be a ridiculous assertion, to say the least.

Because if you are indeed claiming that abductions are not being reported to the police, your entire complaint against Adam completely loses credibility, and you are complaining about the wrong thing to the wrong people. We all understand press underreporting as a serious bias issue - but if an entire community isn't reporting that people have gone missing, how exactly is anyone supposed to report on that? How is anyone supposed to spot any trends?

TL/DR: Non reporting of abductions is not the same as the press ignoring abductions. THESE TWO THINGS ARE DIFFERENT.

up
Voting closed 8

The hysteria is the epidemic.

up
Voting closed 11

So, a few things first: I am going to point out that it is entirely possible there have been attempted abduction incidents in Black communities that did occur, and people distrust the police and don't want to report, or did try to report and were ignored/disbelieved/etc. It wouldn't be the first time that the police have participated in further marginalizing Black communities. So let's just keep that in mind here; the police saying something didn't happen isn't 100% trustworthy. Adam, there are firsthand accounts floating around social media. If you aren't seeing these, I'm happy to forward them when I see them.

But you know what is 100% absolutely happening? Because of these reports, people are reporting families to DCF for having school-age children travel to school along familiar routes or otherwise not be attended by an adult 24/7. The families who get reported are of course poorer and browner families (these extreme racial and economic discrepancies exist at all levels of child welfare involvement -- reporting, screening in, adverse findings, removals, terminations, number of placements, aging out). I am seeing a sharp increase in this in my work, and the supposed epidemic of near-abductions is being mentioned frequently when speaking with collaterals. Some of the people making the reports or justifying them are people of color themselves, who disparage other parents and talk proudly about how a competent parent would never let their child or teen go anywhere without an adult.

I do not want to step out of my lane as a white parent and clinician and claim to know what is the best way for concerned people of color to address things with other families of color, but I do know that there is ample research that 1) even an investigation is traumatizing and destabilizing for any family 2) more reporting does not equal more safety 3) crimes committed by strangers are at an all-time low in the US 4) there is massive bias and incompetence in the child welfare system (in which I've worked in various capacities for decades...). So regardless of whether people in vans are approaching people, it is a legitimate and newsworthy issue that communities are being affected by it, and that some people think the way to handle the issue is to further marginalize and traumatize families by calling the authorities on them.

up
Voting closed 9

I really hate when WE address things about our children it's always hysteria please Adam, do better this is real. I respect you and the format you provide and whether or not people are exaggerating the truth in you guys eyes the data shows differently.

https://nypost.com/2019/12/10/creep-chases-14-year-old-girl-into-traffic...

up
Voting closed 7

“Data” is not the plural of “anecdote.” What would convince me that the problem is real would be actual data. What would convince me that the problem is grossly under reported would be data.

up
Voting closed 19

You're a reporter. You keep getting tagged in Facebook posts about these incidents in Boston (and somebody in the community sends you screenshots of several more, as well as a link to Miranda's post). You have the chance to grab both the police commissioner and the mayor to ask them what they're doing about it all, but they both deny that anybody has been kidnapped like the posts say and that there have been no attempts to kidnap anybody like that.

How do you write that story?

up
Voting closed 21

You allowed things like actual facts and interviews with officials to interfere with an important narrative. That kind of “journalism” is so 1999.

up
Voting closed 16

No white van. No drug cocktail. No couple.

This is literally one insane dude chasing a girl with no evidence he was actually going to randomly abduct her and drag her off to the sex trade or some such nonsense.

Yes, people get harassed and some even get abducted. It's super rare. It almost never happens as these posts say. It's not happening around here.
There's no reason to plan your life around it happening to you...taking pictures of every white van, etc.

up
Voting closed 8

Rep. Liz Miranda (Roxbury, Dorchester), wrote "there have been many reported missing children and abductions in and around Boston"

I'm sure the state representative meant well, but such comments are irresponsible. Actual child kidnappings, where a stranger snatches a child, are exceedingly rare and dominate the news whenever they occur. Locally, I'm thinking Molly Bish, Jeffrey Curley, Melissa Benoit etc. Sure, there are many parents who briefly fear their "missing" child has been kidnapped but most experienced cops know to check under the bed first, then the other usual hiding spots. Almost always, the oblivious child turns up without even knowing the commotion and anxiety he caused. If "many abductions" or even one abduction had recently occurred in Boston, it would receive 24/7 coverage until the child was found or was missing so long that people lost interest. Those believing the nonsense should heed the advice "don't believe everything you hear."

up
Voting closed 24

Not the first time she has amplified rumors or made up stories just to prove her anti-establishment cred.

Elected officials have to understand the power they have to cause panic and spread falsehoods.

You're a state rep. Call the damn police commissioner before you tweet something like this.

up
Voting closed 15

This BS originated 2 years ago during the run-up to the mid-term elections. That's when FB started spewing stories about strange, unattended males in stores who were there to kidnap middle aged housewives and turn them into sex slaves. Line 2 always explained that they spoke w a foreign accent, which got us to 3: These are illegal aliens and 4: Only the republicans will protect you from this army of brown people who are looking to grab you or your daughter.

This lead to suburban housewives all over the country claiming they were "almost kidnapped" at the grocery store that day because they saw a funny looking guy in produce and when they got to the parking lot, sure enough, there was a van somewhere. This of course sent them straight to the FB machine where they told their gfs how they were almost abducted so that they got all the attention of Hugs and Thinking of You.

This came up again about 2 months ago w a woman I know posting pictures of a standard work van and assuring everyone that This Is What the Kidnappers Drive. I pm'd this person and tried to reason w her about the whole issue, but she just got very angry and assured me she was educated on the issue. Said education consists of FB posts from some Orlando housewife.

Liz Miranda sounds like one of those NH politicians that goes off the rails and gets in the news for saying something crazy and we all just say, "well that's NH for you".

up
Voting closed 9

It is important to remember that there are coordinated dis- and misinformation campaigns being coordinated primarily by foreign governments (maybe not all of them unfriendlies).

Often these are attempts to be chaos agents. They are trying to exploit actual fears and mistrust of institutions like the government, police, and medical establishments.

Campaigns like this have contributed to measles outbreaks in Eastern Europe. I'm not saying that this latest round of "white van panic" is this kind of campaign because I'm old enough to remember people faxing around stupid unfounded rumors like this but just keep in mind if you don't have a valid source that can be verified, even if there is a "trending topic" it could be an actual malevolent actor instigating this.

The first time I learned of this was reading this NYT article called "The Agency" about Russia. Then of course all of us who don't consume Fox News learned about it after the 2016 presidential election when the dry runs turned into prime time.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/magazine/the-age...

up
Voting closed 5