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Coquitlam RCMP continue to investigate 'suspicious' white van calls

Calls about suspicious white vans turn out to be vehicles owned by neighbour, worker, but Coquitlam RCMP will investigate every single report that comes in: spokesperson
BC RCMP Twitter
B.C. RCMP issued a clarification of statements made about sharing uncorroborated stories about white vans and attempted abductions. However, Coquitlam RCMP continue to get calls about white vans, which turn out to be owned by neighbours or workers, police say.

The RCMP continues to field calls about suspicious vans in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam in recent days but investigators say the vehicles had legitimate reasons to be parked in the area.

However, in one case, Mounties were not able to find the van because it had departed before police got there so they were not able to follow up.

Coquitlam RCMP spokesperson Const. Deanna Law said people concerned about their safety should call 911 or the RCMP’s non-emergency number at 604-945-1550.

She told the Tri-City News that someone called the detachment on Feb. 5 about a suspicious van circling their building, but placed the call 40 minutes after the incident.

NO ONE COMPLAINED OF BEING GRABBED

By the time police arrived, the vehicle was gone. “Report it immediately. Don’t delay in waiting because we then have the means to find that vehicle,” said Const. Law.

In four other complaints about white vans or utility vehicles near homes — made between Feb. 5 and Feb. 9 — investigators found the vehicles were in the area legitimately: Either the owner lived in the building or was doing work in the area.

All calls were reports about “suspicious” vehicles, Law said. “No one was grabbed at or spoken to.”

There was one report, however, in which police did follow up after a woman feared for her safety because the men in a vehicle were harassing her.

According to News 1130, the woman was driving around Lions Park in Port Coquitlam at about 2 a.m. on Monday when a van pulled up beside her and the passenger appeared to be yelling at her. The vehicle apparently followed her closely but she she evaded them by driving into a side street, and called police. 

An RCMP officer saw the suspect vehicle, which had been circulating in the area, but let the men go. The woman said she felt threatened and now fears for her safety. The Tri-City News has not independently confirmed the report by the woman, but has reached out to Coquitlam RCMP for more details about what happened.

LICENSE PLATE CHECK USED TO FIND OWNER

Still, most of the recent reports made to the Coquitlam RCMP have turned out to be not a threat but in each case police followed up, Law said, by tracing the license plate and contacting the owner.

“If people feel uncomfortable, we want them to call us, and we will follow on every single report. We don’t want them to report on social media without them reporting to us because the investigators don’t look online or Facebook or any social media platform for reported incidents,” Law said.

The white van calls come during a heightened fears in the Tri-Cities, with posts on social media prompting police on the weekend to request people to call in reports to police directly but to not post third-party reports of suspicious of white vans and attempted abductions for fear they are scaring people and because they can’t be confirmed.

The Coquitlam RCMP statements generated a backlash, prompting clarifications.

SAFETY TALK ON FRIDAY FOR WOMEN

Still, there continues to be heightened concern about women’s safety on social media. 

An SFU criminologist said the white van abduction concerns are likely prompted by the lack of information about two missing women’s cases: Trina Hunt, 48, missing from her Port Moody home since Jan. 18, and Shaelene Bell, 23, missing from Chilliwack, since Jan. 30.

As of Feb. 11, there were no further updates on these two missing persons cases from either Port Moody police or the BC RCMP.

Tomorrow (Feb. 12) a Port Coquitlam martial arts business is hosting a safety talk with an RCMP officer providing safety tips for women. Ascension Martial Arts stated it didn’t want to spread fear but was offering the Zoom talk as a service to the community.