If you’ve been reading on Facebook about white vans supposedly being used for sex trafficking, it’s a hoax, at least when it comes to some national pattern or coordinated effort.
CNN reported that the white van rumors were “initially propelled by Facebook’s algorithms.” According to CNN, concerns went viral on the social media platform that “men driving white vans are kidnapping women all across the United States for sex trafficking and to sell their body parts.” However, the cable news network concluded that there “is no evidence to suggest this is happening, much less on a national, coordinated scale.”
Baltimore’s mayor generated renewed concern when he warned about the white vans in an interview and urged people not to park near white vans. But police there then stated that they have no actual reports of white vans being involved in human trafficking.
Concerns about white vans haven’t been limited to Baltimore, though. A handyman in Detroit told ClickonDetroit that he was harassed by people because he drives a white van. He took to Facebook to deny being connected to human trafficking. That station says, though, that the concerns about white vans in that community sparked when a viral video showed “a woman claiming she saw a young girl being forced into the back of a van at a Detroit gas station.”
Here’s what you need to know:
The Baltimore Mayor Raised Concerns About Human Trafficking & White Vans
Baltimore Mayor Jack Young discussed so-called “mysterious white vans being used to abduct women,” during an interview, according to WBAL-TV.
“We’re getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and for selling body parts, I’m told, so we have to really be careful, because there’s so much evil going on, not just in the city of Baltimore, but around the country,” Young said.
However, Baltimore police then told WBAL-TV that they don’t have any actual reports of this happening with white vans, and Young acknowledged his reports came from Facebook, saying, “Citizens are it’s all over Facebook, and that’s something that our police officers are aware of, because it’s been reported.” The television station reported that the FBI also has no such white van reports and Young’s spokesman said he was making a general comment not one tied to a specific incident.
That doesn’t mean that there are never legitimate concerns about white vans, of course. For example, the Franklin, Wisconsin Police Department wrote this on its Facebook page in November 2019: “On Tuesday, 11/05/19, at approximately 9:45 a.m., a resident reported that a white Mercedes van (no plate obtained) pulled into their driveway. The driver of the white van then made contact with the resident claiming to be from Empire flooring stating he was there to complete a work order. The homeowner did not schedule any work through Empire flooring and when the homeowner asked to see the work order was advised that the subject could not find it.”
Police continued: “The driver of the van is described as a male white mid 30’s approx. 6’00” , med build, with long blonde hair, wearing a dark hoodie and jeans and having a European accent. The subject also was wearing a blue lanyard with Empire on it that appeared to be a makeshift identification card. A second subject (possibly a Hispanic male) was observed seated in the passenger but no further description could be provided. A call to Empire flooring revealed no work orders at this residence and it didn’t appear that the subjects went to any other residences in the area.”
In Georgia, the Newnan Police Department was “investigating reports of white vans approaching children,” according to Fox5Atlanta. On November 14, 2019, Newnan police wrote on Facebook, “The Newnan Police Department is looking in to two reports of the driver of a white cargo style van acting suspiciously in the areas of Berry Ave. and Boone Dr. THERE ARE NO REPORTS OF A KIDNAPPING OR ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION.”
Police explained: “The driver has spoken to two juveniles to ask for directions. The juveniles correctly left the area once they felt suspicious of the driver or his intentions. Out of an abundance of caution: Newnan Police Department does not want internet rumors to spread and cause panic. Please remind your family to be cautious of strangers and, as always, report any suspicious activity IMMEDIATELY by calling 911.”
It’s easy to find other reports of white vans by people on Facebook from different areas of the country. For example, a woman wrote on Facebook in September 2019 that a teenage girl “was followed home today by an unidentified white van. They followed her off of the bus, down the street and watched her enter the house. Authorities have been notified about the situation.” That was in the area of Oliver Beach, Maryland.
However, someone else responded, “I think I saw that van on the main road this afternoon. It was a man delivering Amazon packages and he had a bright yellow vest on. Not saying that he was or wasn’t being creepy but maybe he was looking for an address. ??♀️”
A woman in Texas wrote, “My kids were riding around the corner when a white van started following them around, they noticed and hurried home and told me When I went outside it took off from the alley way.”
However, again, law enforcement has given no indication that there is a white van syndicate or coordinated white van trafficking ring.