THE BC RCMP on Monday reassured the public that there is nothing to indicate that people are being abducted or there is an increase in reported cases. It said that there was also nothing to indicate any links in recent missing person cases identified in Port Moody, Chilliwack or other areas of the province. The circumstances in each investigation are different.
In a statement, the BC RCMP said: “Over the weekend, two news releases were issued by the Coquitlam RCMP in an attempt to address concerns on social media about women missing from the Lower Mainland and in other parts of the province.
“We have heard from members of the public, elected officials and from some of our stakeholders who have expressed deep concern about the language used by the BC RCMP.
“We regret that this has caused anger and has upset people. In no way, was it meant to be disrespectful or dismissive of the public’s concern. We attempted to address this issue in order to get the most accurate and timely information out to the public. We are fully aware that we used language that upset some of the people we serve.”
Giving details about how police handle crime, the BC RCMP said: “The Real Time Intelligence Centre British Columbia (RTIC-BC) has a mandate to review and identify links and trends in criminal activity throughout the province. This is just one of the ways police departments in BC share information and coordinate investigative efforts. RTIC-BC reports that in three recent files, persons were followed by a white van. There was no other interaction. A fourth file, confirms one male being forced into a white paneled van. It is still under investigation. Of note, four of the files which reported a white van in their neighbourhoods, reported it after seeing similar posts on social media. No links, trends or increases in missing persons was identified.”
It added: “Police receive reports of missing persons daily and in the majority of cases news alerts are issued and nearly all are located safe. Every report of a missing person is taken seriously and actively investigated in accordance with BC Policing Standards for missing persons. We receive over 20,000 missing persons reports every year. About 1% of people remain missing at the end of the year, and most are located within 7 days. Additionally, each case is subject to investigative reviews and assessed against other cases for similarities or connections.”
Regarding social media posts, the BC RCMP said: “In addition to our public website, interviews and news releases, the BC RCMP uses social media to communicate directly with the people we serve, and we consider it an important tool to share information quickly. We also understand the power of social media as a platform to spread misinformation causing needless fear in the community.
“This is what happened this past weekend with hundreds, even thousands of posts that warned the public of a series of abductions, possibly involving a suspicious white van that had not been substantiated. Very concerning were the calls for people to start arming themselves. The posts also speculated that some recent missing person files were linked. This was not true and inconsistent with the evidence gathered. We understand that many posters likely shared the information with good intentions. We appreciate people care about each other and simply want to communicate what they believe is accurate information about their own safety. However, the BC RCMP is pleading with the public to reach out to the police in your jurisdiction for the most accurate information and to report any suspicious incidents to your local police for investigative follow up. Access police social media on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook first, to confirm if the posts you are seeing are corroborated by the police. The police are your best and most accurate source of information. The BC RCMP social media accounts include Twitter: @BCRCMP, Instagram: bcrcmp and Facebook: BCRCMP.”
The BC RCMP added: “Please know that the BC RCMP continues to prioritize and investigate any reported missing persons, abduction attempts as we would any serious public safety issue including the ongoing gang conflict. Further, if there is evidence of a heightened risk to the public on any matter, police will provide that alert expeditiously and factually.”
The BC RCMP then referred to Sunday’s news release by Coquitlam RCMP:
“Yesterday the Coquitlam RCMP issued a news release aimed at addressing an increasing number of social media posts that have raised fears in our community. We regret that the use of the term ‘rumours’ angered some and has left others feeling dismissed.
“To clarify; any direct report of an attempted abduction that is made to the Coquitlam RCMP is taken very seriously and investigated thoroughly. When we ask you to avoid spreading rumours, we are referring specifically to someone who is not a witness or victim and then shares social media posts written by someone else. Those third-party reports are rumour because there has been no attempt to verify or corroborate the facts (such as these reports).
“Our intention in releasing this information is to address the most concerning claims in those social media posts- especially calls for people to arm themselves. We have heard from people who might be afraid to go for a jog, work a night shift, or walk down the street on their own. We want to assure those people that your community is safe because there is no information to date that supports a spike or trend in attempted abductions.
“We will continue to prioritize and investigate any reported abduction attempt as we would any serious public safety issue. If there is any evidence of a heightened risk, or a need for you to be extra-careful, we will let you know straightaway as we have in the past.
“We continue to ask everyone to report any suspicious incidents immediately and directly to police, rather than on social media, so that our officers can gather evidence and determine what occurred. Those reports are shared with our crime analysts, Frontline officers, intelligence officers and proactive units like our crime reduction unit, bike and foot patrol officers. These combined efforts are key in determining the facts and keeping people safe.
“We also ask that our citizens remain vigilant and take the steps necessary to reduce risks and enhance their personal safety.”
The RCMP suggested:
- Be alert and aware of your surroundings
- Avoid distractions (like your phone and earbuds) while you are walking or driving
- Avoid confrontations over driving behaviour or parking spots
- Wear bright clothing and obey traffic safety laws
- Walk with family or in pairs when in isolated areas
- Call police immediately if you feel unsafe or see a crime in progress
It added: “We remain committed to investigating all reports and sharing information with the public in order to address public safety concerns and keep our communities safe.”