Police: Tell us first, not Facebook; Child predator sightings hit Facebook groups

Published 9:39 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

Alleged sightings of predators trying to lure children to vehicles have popped up all over Facebook crime-watch type groups over the past week, and upset parents continue to spread the word of caution.

Therein lies the problem.

Only one of the purported sightings in the Mid-County area has been officially reported to local police, according to police.

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One of the posts that have circulated referred to an incident in Nederland.

“A juvenile female was walking home from school and stated a white male in a white van with ‘pizza’ spray painted on the side stopped and asked if she wanted pizza,” Nederland Police Chief Darrell Bush said of the reported incident. “The female got out her phone and said she was calling the police and the man took off.”

The incident occurred near Central Middle School around 3:30 p.m. last week.

Bush said police did check the area but were not able to confirm the incident.

Bush asked that people call police as soon as possible if they see something suspicious such as the above-mentioned incident.

Around the same time as the reported Nederland incident, there as a similar sighting in Port Neches near the corner of Llano Street and Grigsby Avenue, according to a Facebook crime group posting. The issue was reported to officials at Woodcrest Elementary School, who then issued an alert to parents. The parent said, according to the post, that a man in a red truck pulled up in a driveway and asked a juvenile boy to help him find his dog. The child said ‘no’ and went inside and told his mother.

Port Neches Police Chief Paul Lemoine said a police report on the incident was not made.

“It (the incident) was picked up on a Facebook group and someone contacted us by phone and asked if we knew anything about it,” Lemoine said.

The mother, he said, didn’t report the incident the day it appeared on Facebook.

“If someone sees anything suspicious, they need to call the police. If it’s nothing, no harm, no foul,” he said. “If it is something, they may actually prevent a crime from happening by calling the police first and worry about spreading it on social media second.”

A Facebook post on yet another group site told of an older model white van with writing but no phone numbers. The male driver reportedly told a girl that he knew her mother and asked how she was doing, and he was acting suspicious. The child saw the man again in the area of Cambridge Apartments.

The post said the incident was reported to police.

Groves Police City Marshal Norman Reynolds Jr. said he had heard about a recent incident in Orange County but was not familiar with one in his city.

“Facebook is certainly useful to all of us, even the law enforcement community, but posts still have to be coupled with making contact with police agencies,” Reynolds said. “After that’s done, then share on Facebook. The first point of contact needs to be the police department, and let the authorities know what you suspect and give them an opportunity to make contact with the individuals.”

If possible, try to get a description of the individual as well as the suspect vehicle and the license plate number.

Reynolds said police do monitor various Facebook crime group sites but often hear of crimes after the fact.

E-mail: mary.meaux@panews.com

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