Suspicious vans in W. MI: Is there any truth?

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Posts and pictures of white vans are popping up in West Michigan social media feeds. The posts include talk of sex trafficking and kidnappings. 

Police in Grand Rapids and Ottawa County have both put out warnings about suspicious vans, giving some credence to the claims, but are they malice or myth?

Social media posts of people seeing suspicious white vans. (Dec. 9, 2019)

The latest reported incident involving a white van occurred last Friday in Grand Rapids.

“All of a sudden you hear a scream and it’s a man, like help me,” a woman who wants to go by Cari, recalled.

She’s so concerned that she doesn’t want to be identified.

Cari says she was driving home on 28th Street near Buchanan Avenue when she heard the hollow scream like it was echoing off the walls inside the back of the van. 

“I had my window down, so I could hear it blandly,” she said. 

Cari says even when the van moved further away, she continued to hear it.

“I still heard the screaming. It was that loud. You could feel in your gut that something is wrong,” she said.

She says she called 911 and gave them the license plate. GRPD says it found nothing further.  

The same goes for the report of a suspicious white van near Burton Street and Buchanan Avenue. In that instance, there were reports that the driver attempted to talk with kids walking to school in the morning. There was a similar report in Ottawa County. In all three cases there are no leads or arrests. 

News 8 asked GRPD if there is any truth to these reports from the public.

“I truly believe it’s being influenced by social media,” Sgt. John Wittkowski said. “There is always truth to any story at least some inkling or it wouldn’t come about to begin with.”

GRPD says most of the reports have little merit. The calls are fueled by urban myths and stereo types.

“We got numerous calls on people just saying ‘hey, there is a white van driving down the road.’ Doing absolutely nothing but driving down the road,” Wittkowski said. 

Cari is still convinced of what she heard. Police commend her for calling 911 and say it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

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