Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2017 11:21:54 -0700
Here is an update from the mom of the child who had the interaction with
the white van:
My family owes each and every one of you, and this entire community, a huge apology tonight. There is no creepy man in a white van prowling the streets of our safeÂ community.
My daughter was on her way to swim practice yesterday when a
white van pulled up next to her in the bike lane as she was about to cross
_____ Street from the sidewalk. The man in the white van was actually doing
my daughter (and my family) a huge favor — he was concerned that she might
not be paying close enough attention at the cross-walk, so he stopped his
van to make sure she made it safely across.
My daughter completelyÂ misinterpreted the situation. Having recently learned about stranger dangerÂ in school, she believed she was being followed and this van was unsafe. SheÂ raced off after it pulled up next to her.
Scared out of her wits, butÂ unsure of herself, she exaggerated the details of the event and the storyÂ took on a life of its own. I believe that she dug a huge hole for herselfÂ that she did not feel comfortable climbing out of until she was told by twoÂ detectives of the Police Department tonight that she would not beÂ in trouble if she admitted that she might have exaggerated her story.
Suffice it to say that she is very much aware of the fear that she caused
our community today, and to say that she feels terrible would be the
understatement of the century.
My daughter is preparing apology letters to all of you, to our community
and to the Police Department. She will also be offering to do some
community service for the Police Department in an effort to make-up for the
tremendous expenditure of resources that occurred on her behalf. Apparently
nearly every white van in our town was pulled over today. I have included theÂ officer and detectives who were involved on this email so they know howÂ truly sorry we are, but more importantly, so we can all THANK them. They
were prepared to move heaven and earth to find this mystery man. We can all
rest assured that we live in one of the safest communities in the country
because of the extraordinary work of our local law enforcement.
I am so very sorry for the fear that you all experienced today, and the
difficult conversations that you likely had with your children. I hope you
can find it in your hearts to forgive my daughter and my family for this
misunderstanding. And again, I can’t stress enough how blessed we are to
have our local law enforcement. THANK YOU for everything that you did for
my daughter today.
On Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 6:00 PM, another local wrote:Â
Thanks. A friend of mine also found this information
on the Nextdoor neighborhood social site, which was posted by the mother:
On Wednesday afternoon, my daughter was riding her bike from our house in
the ___ neighborhood to the pool in the ___ neighborhood for
her swim practice. At approx. 5:10, she was riding on the sidewalk along
____, preparing to cross over ____. A white van slowed down and pulled into the bike laneÂ behind her. It then pulled up next to her, rolled down the passenger windowÂ and the older male driver called her by name, then told her that I had beenÂ in a terrible car accident and she needed to get into his van to go to the
hospital. She refused, and then the man started to get out of the van.
Thankfully, she was on her bike and was able to ride fast and get away. My
daughter said that there was only one person in the van — a 50-60 year old
white man, bald, smoking, no shirt on, with a large red tattoo across his
chest that said “Mamas Boy.” She described the van as very dirty, with
cloth and orange duct tape over each license plate and a crack in the right
The scene sounds like a set up from an after-school movie, to be sure. We
(and the police) scrutinized the story, because we understood the alarm
that it might cause. I wanted to be sure that at least the basic facts
lined up. It appears (at least for now) that the basics are there. A
security camera at the corner of ____ and ____ captured video
of a white van circling near ____ during the same exact timeframe
that my daughter was there. We understand that the police are taking this
seriously and will likely investigate further.
PLEASE keep your eyes out for this vehicle and anyone matching this
description in our neighborhood. If you see anything suspicious, please
call the police. I have reported this information to the police.
On Jun 22, 2017, at 5:49 PM, a woman wrote:Â
We received the following safety alert regarding the ____
neighborhood nearby. I want to share it with our neighborhood so parents
can talk to their kids and so we can all keep an eye out.
*”Good Afternoon ____ Families,*
*Yesterday afternoon one of our swimmers in the neighborhood
of ____ elementary school was approached by a van on her way to
swim practice. Thankfully she responded appropriately, alerted her parents
and the Police Department was notified. The police department’s presence in the
area of ____ can be seen and they are actively investigating this
*While we live in one of the safest cities in the nation, we still need to
be vigilant and informed. Please discuss safety with your children, have a
plan (such as a buddy system) in place if your swimmers walk/bike to the
pool on their own and discuss “stranger danger.” *
*The police have notified ____ families through their notification
system as well.*
*Be safe and keep an eye on each other.*
*____ Director of the Swim League”*
Lenore here: If you happen to live in the community where this happened, I would ask you not to announce its name or the name of the family involved because I didn’t run the story here to hurt or shame anyone. I ran it to remind us that, in the name of keeping our kids safe our society often pumps them full of fear. Â This isn’t helping anyone — not the Good Samaritans who want to help kids, as we just saw, and not the kids who think all strangers are out to get them. – L.
Um, it seems to me the mom’s explanation is cutting the kid WAY too much slack. The level of invented detail – sorry, this wasn’t an innocent mistake the girl fell into inadvertently. It sounds more like mom’s got a compulsive liar on her hands, who enjoys creating drama.
Granted, the adults are asking for it with the stranger danger mythology they’ve provided.
Apparently nearly every white van in our town was pulled over today. I have included the officer and detectives who were involved on this email so they know how truly sorry we are, but more importantly, so we can all THANK them.
Yes, thank you for, despite being professionals, uncritically believing a hole-filled (and, unsurprisingly, false) story from a child, and as a result harassing large numbers of people.
Wow, you guys are harsh on that kid.
“Wow, you guys are harsh on that kid.” Really? How so? She invented a completely false story alleging that an innocent person attempted to commit a serious crime against her, wasting police resources and subjecting many innocent people to police harassment. And she did it deliberately and knowingly – there’s simply no way she truly thought the guy said all that about her mother being in an accident.
What would your parents have done if you did those things? Laughed it off as an accident? I know I would have been in some very serious hot water.
@ Powers, really?
Imagine if you were a a 50-60 year old bald white man who happened to own a white van. You were pulled over and perhaps even taken to the station for questioning. Maybe your neighbors saw the police talking to you. Maybe it was a work van, and you missed a few hours of work while you were questioned by police. And now your boss and coworkers are looking at you funny.
Rumors and innuendo can ruin someone.
The parents did the appropriate thing by writing an apology. And the kid needs to learn actions have consequences.
She needs a good seat to the behind for her tall tales. It will teach not to lie.
I think one of the worst bit here is that this was a parent who actually allowed her kid free-range to ride her bike across neighborhoods from home to swim practice (gasp!). And then her little pulls this stunt.
Thanks a bunch, kiddo. All of us parents fighting for our own children’s freedom to roam appreciate you knocking us back down a couple of rungs.
Wow, little girl. Wow.
But yeah, I think her consequences fit the crime.
She absolutely exaggerated the story there and “misinterpret” is the understatement of the century with that tale she cooked up. That said, she is a kid and probably did enjoy the drama of a bit of embellishment and the story got away from her.
I hope she learns that lesson.
My son used to live in an upscale neighborhood outside Phoenix. I mention that because during the day there are a lot people doing work of various kinds for residents.
There was a neighborhood website where residents could share and exchange all kinds of information, like when school started, if anybody knew which pizza place was best, etc.
In the last couple of years (he moved in March) they started to have some break-ins, cars stolen and whatnot, and everybody was reporting these. In among those was an almost daily report of “a man in a white van,” parked outside somebody’s house. These guys never did anything but unload gardening or other tools, and go to work.
Once there was a report of a “home invasion” that turned out to be a squirrel who’d gotten in through a broken dryer vent. The homeowner was out of town and his security system notified him on his phone app.
It’s really a shame people are so suspicious of everybody and everything!
I think you all are being harsh to the child. I’m unclear on the child’s age but since Lenore is using the word child not teenager, I’m assuming this is an elementary aged child. I suspect her tall tale may have had more to do with how she was questioned and less with deliberate deceit.
One thing that came out of the Satanic Panic, is the type of questions we ask can actually influence how a child not only answers the questions but can frame their recall. Leading questions gave rise not to just sexual abuse alligations but stories of kids being killed (no missing kids, no bodies), and kids being taken hundreds of miles away to be abused but returned in time fo parents to pick up from daycare before six.
So if the first person (mom or swim coach) who she told then said “What did he say to you” – in kid logic world she thinks he had to have said something and comes up with the script from stranger danger. It could have been a woman driving but the questioning adult saying “he” will overwrite that in the kids’ memory and the driver becomes a man (or a man dressed as a woman). Teachers are taught, in their annual, you have to report child abuse in service, to NEVER question a child making an outcry report. We are to listen, make notes, report and let those trained to not ask leading questions investigate.
As far as the cops – we only have the mom’s perception that all the vans were stopped. that may have happened, or they may have twigged that something was off. So they had some people out looking while they figured out how to get the real story from the girl. Maybe they did stop vans and found the van that stopped for this girl. The driver reasonably said I stopped because I thought she was going to dart across the street. Then the police realized what they were dealing with and went back to the family.
“Wow, you guys are harsh on that kid.”
The article above didn’t say how old the girl was but obviously she’s old enough to understand that she exaggerated the story and felt bad about doing so. Apparently she is also old enough to write apology letters to the community and to the police department for creating this panic. With this being the case, I do think she bears some responsibility for creating panic within the community about creepy men in white vans stalking young girls.
But I do believe that the girl’s mother and the girl herself are handling the aftermath of this highly exaggerated and false story with dignity and class by admitting their wrong-doing and in their efforts to correct the record. Hopefully this will be a learning experience not only for the girl who is the center of this controversy but for other kids and their parents within this community also.
Seems to me the adults are at fault here. I *expect* children to behave irresponsibly, but I usually anticipate more discernment and maturity from adults. Grown-ups are *supposed* to be the ones to evaluate these kinds of stories and take responsible action, and not just swallow anything they’re fed. Criminy.
Good voice of reason. Kids are often natural people pleased and leading questions can result in answers tailored to please.
Kimberly, Thank you. I was trying to frame a response and you said it very well.
I would add that the really great thing here is that the parents are taking responsibility and apologizing and making sure their daughter understands why what she did was wrong. I am certain they are embarrassed and would rather crawl under a rock than actually let everyone know what happened. We are so quick to criticize others. I would suggest that one reason people are hesitant to publicly admit mistakes and accept responsibility for their mistakes out loud is because of critical reactions like we see here. Just accept the apology and move on.
There’s a big range of responsibility between “just a kid, didn’t know any better, can’t blame her” and “she knew exactly what she was doing, did it on purpose, and didn’t care!”
There’s a big grey area where kids do things when they really should know better, but their own immaturity or inexperience still leads them to making the wrong decision anyway. In that case, they just need a reasonable consequence and the chance to do better next time. That seems to what’s happening here. This kid knew the things she was saying weren’t exactly true, but she was trying to justify the fear she felt and explain her actions. She probably had no clue how big it would blow up. And now she’s learned that her actions created big problems for other people, and she’s having to apologize and suffer the embarrassment of everyone knowing what she did. I doubt she’ll do anything like that again.
Completely agree that leading questioning can and do happen but the article states the police scrutinized her story which makes you think she came to them with it.
There is also another big difference. No kids were coming forward with stories during the SP. Adult women in individual therapy… yes… Daycare cases… no.
McMartin is a prime example. A severe alcoholic and paranoid schizophrenic mother named Judy Johnson, who had delusions of grandeur and believed she was Jesus, made 98% of the accusations involved. Police truly didn’t have a lot of involvement in that particular case, but social workers calling themselves “therapists” did. So called therapists did most of the questioning in Day Care cases. The social workers interrogated the children based on Judy’s accusations and elements of other unrelated child abuse cases in CA. Many were convinced there was a giant ring of ritual abusers, child pornographers and sex traffickers targeting women and children so they thought everything was connected. They went to training seminars held by “Ritual Abuse Experts” (fringe/quack therapists, some being illuminati theorists, who then deemed their audience members… therapist) that discussed Nazi SS Death Squads bringing Satanic Abuse rings to America (no joke). They grilled the kids, who all initially said they were not abused, until they got the story they wanted. It just kept going and growing from there, especially after the kids realized they would get insulted (called dumb) for telling the truth and rewarded for making up stories.
On that note if anyone has seen the ridiculous – NASA confirms there are no child sex slave camps in space – story floating around…. I would not doubt that came from accusations of Daycare workers taking children to space that were made during the panic.
People also lie, and that includes kids & adults. Prime example right now is the lawsuit and conversations surrounding the 2011 Dear Colleague Letter and mishandled rape cases in Kangaroo Courts on college campuses. There have been large number of false accusations and absurd cases/expulsions due to many campuses using enthusiastic consent policies and nothing remotely similar to legal definitions for coercion, harassment, assault, etc. They define all the above as anything that hurts your feelings or upsets you for a second. It’s the perfect climate to spawn false accusations, and that’s often encouraged.
It’s not uncommon to find articles saying those wrongfully accused, denied due process in Kangaroo Courts, expelled, slandered and put on list that prevents them from attending other colleges is no big deal/nothing to worry about because some men actually do assault women, therefore they all deserve it. In fact, many are spending their time writing articles and papers proclaiming due process a radical right wing concept that was born out of extremist propaganda and rape culture. This is (in part) the same argument that also drove aspects of the panic. It is your typical anti due process/rapists wrote the laws to benefit them argument that was born out of 1970s radical feminism and helps set up the perfect environment for women to come forward with false accusations.
“One thing that came out of the Satanic Panic, is the type of questions we ask can actually influence how a child not only answers the questions but can frame their recall.”
We’ve know about this since WAY before the Satanic Panic, unless by “Satanic Panic” you’re referring to 17th-century Salem.
Questioning children is VERY difficult if the child is traumatized, for the same reasons that questioning adults is difficult if the person has been traumatized.
Adrenaline actively interferes with storage and recall of memory.
“My daughter said that there was only one person in the van â€” a 50-60 year old white man, bald, smoking, no shirt on, with a large red tattoo across his chest that said â€œMamas Boy.â€ She described the van as very dirty, with cloth and orange duct tape over each license plate and a crack in the right passenger mirror.”
Wow, I don’t know how old this girl is, but for someone who was so terrified she certainly had the presence of mind to remember so many details. I especially her recollection of the “Mama’s Boy” tattoo.
I think this apology letter and confession was a very mature, appropriate response for the parent to make.
@John B apology letters to community and police are not proof thay the kid is responsible or grown. They are proof that the kid will do whatever adults ask her to do.
In any case, I don’t see good actor in this story. The kid should not exaggetate nor lie. Unless she was driving like drunk, the man in van should have leave her alone. He was meddling busybody who basically created obstacle on the road, because young girl cant possibly handle that driving – she raced off so apparently she could. The rest of adults should not overreact nor stop all white vans in town.
@Jane Kids tend make up details when adult ask them question multiple times and they don’t know answer. They also answer in a way adults question suggests the answer is and they tend to later believe that later. When kids are asked about things that they think are important they seek to please adults.
I have seen that multiple times with my kids. They had no reason to lie, but what they thought happened when asked and what I seen or other adults later said they seen was not the same.
This kid is likely older, but even as kid knew no one stepped out of car, many details were likely made during questioning to please adults.
Which is why kid should be questioned by people who know a thing or two about kids. Adults who don’t have experience with kids tend to be too suggestive and also interpret quite clear signal of something made up as proof at truth (and vice versa).
The irony is that kids probably SHOULD be wary around windowless and unmarked vans. They may not be likely to hold kidnappers, but they could be hauling illegals, drugs and so forth. The best responses to teach are either to report the out of place vehicle to an adult, or ignore it.
This reminds me of my neighbor, who is a plumber and drives a white van for work, and his daughters who wanted to bike to school.
He was worried something bad might happen to them and thought it would be a good idea if he followed them, in his white van, for part of the distance to make sure they were safe.
I told him that would result in many calls to the police as a white van following young girls is the stereotypical creeper of urban myths! His girls now bike every day without an escort. I feel bad for those that need to drive white work vans and are subject to false assumptions.
Let’s not forget that kids are kids, they can’t be expected to know the consequences of all their actions. Childhood is when they are supposef to make mistakes and learn. That sounds like exactly what this particular child is doing.I bet she’ll never be guilty of a false police report as an adult.
The mom is doing a difficult thing by publicly apologizing. Congrats to her on teaching her kids how to be decent citizens and for leading by example.
@David n brow. Why should kids be wary of vehicles ” hauling illegals, drugs and so forth?” How will any of that harm kids? Non citizens are going to stay hidden, drugs are not going to jump out and attack the kids, and I did not know what else you are referring to.
The mother came clean. It’s true that the false accusations can ruin lives and her apology doesn’t erase that. However, this is a valuable lesson for America. Apparently, we didn’t learn from the McMartin case and continued dishing out fear.
I have mixed feelings on this. Part of me wants to slap her for causing a panic. However, part of me wants to praise her for her bravery. As long as we keep looking for blame, nothing will get better. For decades hysteria was plowing through America like a runaway train. While we were obsessed with the campaign of stamping out everything that could possibly cause harm, we we using fear as a tool to make this happen. Hysteria breaks many more things than it fixes.
This incident happened. THAT’S BAD Now what do we do now?
1. Ignore this potential learning experience. THAT’S WORSE
2. Learn from this. Think about things like the McMartin case.
@Caiti: Of course, most criminals will leave civilians alone as long as they do the same. The big problem for all concerned is if a kid gets the idea to act out a 3 Investigators style adventure.
“a 3 Investigators style adventure.”
Wow. That’s a really deep reach. Passing over the much-better-known Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and even Encyclopedia Brown.
This is a vast improvement on Psycho Dad in a very recent story. Kudos to the mum for going public with her apology. Let’s hope Psycho Dad reads this and publicly apologizes to the poor Good Samaritan he punched out and then smeared all over social media.
@James: I read a lot of “3 Investigators” when I was in elementary school. Never had a heart to read them again, tho I read a few other stories by creator Robert Arthur. “Eyewitness” and “Post Paid to Paradise” are especially good.
As far as highly suspicious vans, there’s always the off-chance of a rolling meth lab going critical and taking out a chunk of the neighborhood. Slim, but still more believable than slavers roving for kids.
It’s incredible that the child has not been treated more severely. In some countries false accusations render the accuser subject to the same penalty as the accused would have suffered.
EVERY white van was pulled over?
Did they all match this description? “very dirty, with cloth and orange duct tape over each license plate and a crack in the right passenger mirror.”
Just a bit of an over-reaction, right?
“EVERY white van was pulled over?”
Without knowing which town it was, you have to consider the possibility that pulling over “every white van in town” means “both of them”.
“As far as highly suspicious vans, thereâ€™s always the off-chance of a rolling meth lab going critical and taking out a chunk of the neighborhood. Slim, but still more believable than slavers roving for kids.”
Geez, this guy.
No, it’s even less believable. Who’s not going not report a van pumping out noxious fumes? And it can’t explode if it’s not a reaction in progress and doing that.
And fwiw I’d trust 90% of the drug dealers I’ve met around my kid before someone as delusional about vans full of drugs and drug dealers waiting to kidnap or kill any kid who catches a glance of them handing a bad to someone else before they’re told to scram, or kill them because they’re for some reason cooking meth in a car parked on a public street, as you are. Oh and immigrants. “Ay carumba, that kid saw people in the back of my van, I better kill her in case she thinks about questioning their immigration status and reporting my plate number the police!”
“Wow. Thatâ€™s a really deep reach. Passing over the much-better-known Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and even Encyclopedia Brown.
Nobody (but me) ever remembers Brains Benton.
(shakes head sadly)
I think part of the narrative that is being forgotten here is the fact that kids continue to be taught this “stranger danger” garbage in the first place. I have no idea what the school curriculum looks like when it comes to this topic, but kids everywhere are being given a big disservice by being presented with this nonsense. One day, hey might be in a situation where they need the help of a stranger but will be too afraid to ask because of all the fear and paranoia they’ve developed as a result of the whole myth they’ve been taught.
I agree Helen. A little caution around strangers isn’t bad but this stranger danger is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It is Overkill.
“The irony is that kids probably SHOULD be wary around windowless and unmarked vans. They may not be likely to hold kidnappers, but they could be hauling illegals, drugs and so forth.”
Or construction supplies for a small handyman business, or contract delivery packages (with the explosion of online shopping, a lot of the big carriers are contracting out to individuals with trucks and vans), or junk hauling, or….
Not everyone who legitimately uses a van for commercial purposes has the funds for getting it painted nor even any reason to make the expense worthwhile.
I don’t live in this neighborhood to my knowledge, but a similarly exaggerated story happened on my little country dirt road when a guy walked past the bus stop and waved at the kid standing there. The kid was about 3rd grade. The guy was walking down the road to the bus stop 3 miles away to get to work, and had been seen on numerous occasions by the neighbor who lives near the bus stop. Once she knew what had “happened” she talked to the police to help clear the guy. The parents were upset and talked to everyone on our short dirt road the day of the “event” and then apologized the next when they learned the story was exaggerated.
Another case happened at my kid’s school. It is a homeshool/public school partnership, located at the time in a church next to a traditional public elementary school. There was testing going on at our school, which meant parents waiting around while their kids did the test. Recess happened at the elementary school. “A scary man” talked to some kids over the fence. The school sent out a warning to parents, posts were all over Facebook. When I pointed out that there was a reason for parents to be next door….things calmed down, some. They never did find this guy.
A few years ago what you described happened to me. I took my Great niece and her friends for ice cream. When we got there a State Police car pulled in behind me. There was a report made that I had taken the girls. When the officer saw that I had the girls in car seats he apologized to me. By the time I got them home it was all over social media. My name, vehicle description and my license number. The State Police were very proactive in squashing the story.
Think twice about re – posting something like this if you don’t know all of the facts. We had a clown who thought that he was a news reporter for his Facebook page. It took the threat of a lawsuit to get him to take down the story from his page.
This worse case thinking first, and not encouraging smart thought and reaction in schools, put our children in more danger than if they didn’t tell them anything at all. Bad info is never a good thing to go on. Educators need to educate themselves first. Especially when they are very influential on young impressionable minds. Don’t teach fear, teach rationality, logic, and street smarts.
I hope this girl learned a lesson from this, and that she will be smarter in the future. And just because they are teachers, or even parents, doesn’t always make them right. It also doesn’t stop them from being human, and making fearful, illogical decisions. Which all adults should start considering what they are teaching the next generations. Is it for them, or is it for you? If it makes YOU feel better, then it’s about you. 😉
Hooray for the family for stepping up and admitting fault. Let’s hope no vermin choose the sue them; it would be a sad coda to this tragicomedy.
And, before too many other people go off on the girl, lets remember that the line between a story we tell over and over and fantasy tends to blur with the best of us. This is the most horrible thing about the Day-Car Child Abuse Witch Hunts; the social workers who lead the children in question probably left the kids actually believing the nonsense they ended up spouting.
The girl probably started out with a story that sprang from her erroneous fears, and as people asked her to repeat it they suggested details that she incorporated unconsciously, or they were incorporated when the story got passed between third parties.
@Pentamom: Usually, businesses mark their vehicles as a form of advertising. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be as important for subcontractors, who would normally rely on connections with larger companies. On the other hand, otherwise legitimate businesses handle dangerous material all the time, not always in a legal or safe manner. Again, the best lesson to teach kids is to point out a vehicle doesn’t look “right” to an adult.
Now we’re supposed to teach our kids how to spot a vehicle that doesn’t “look right”, which could mean thousands of different things to different people? That’s no different than “eek, a male”!
I’m currently at the beach with just my girls and several of their friends. Since it’s a beach town and the weather is gorgeous, I park my car for the week and we bike everywhere.
The warning I give them about *suspicious* vehicles is about ones that don’t yield to crosswalks, speeding cars, and ones that might hit them. Since they bike the boardwalk every morning, I’ve also warned them of small children walking (unpredictable) and groups that insist on holding hands and spreading out into the bike lanes because they might clothesline one of my kids.
I believe in practical safety- cars can hit kids. Not doing our kids any favors making them paranoid and shifty eyed to imagine Mama’s Boy tattoos and elaborate kidnapping scenerios…keep your eyes on the road!!
“Admittedly, this wouldnâ€™t be as important for subcontractors, who would normally rely on connections with larger companies.”
Uh, yeah, my point exactly. There are lots of unmarked vans driving around for fully legitimate and useful purposes, because there are lots of people whose business or cashflow requirements preclude customized signage on their vans.
A van that doesn’t “look right’ has to be something that has something objectively wrong about it. Being white and not having windows is NOT “not looking right.” We should not be teaching kids to identify danger based on irrelevant factors; that just interferes with their ability to identify it based on relevant factors by creating noise.
@pentamom: I would agree with lollipoplover about what constitutes a “suspicious” vehicle. Other important criteria would be the age and condition of the vehicle. An old and badly maintained van can be dangerous enough in law abiding hands.
I guess to me there’s a difference between a vehicle that might be dangerous due to driving habits and/or traffic conditions, and one that doesn’t “look right”. I took that to mean any or all of a) windowless b) no graphic design or advertising c) occupied by a person who looks at a child as he/she drives by d) drives by the same bus stop every day at the same time etc etc etc. To me that’s just stranger danger all over again, especially with the admonition to tell an adult if you see a vehicle that doesn’t look right.
I did not understand that the reference was to vehicles that were or might soon be driving recklessly.
That is so right.
Without the adult element, all kinds of childish things happen.
A 13- or 14-year-old child can write a much more coherent letter than a 6- or 7-year-old could. From reading this story, there is no reason to believe that the girl was not contrite about her false tale.
What I mostly had in mind was vehicles and drivers that don’t fit in with their surroundings. By this standard, a brand new sports car can be as “suspicious” as a windowless piece of junk van, and if the two happen to be together, it would be hard NOT to draw conclusions… Incidentally, I think kids can draw these judgments as well as any adult, provided they aren’t too sheltered to have a feel for their own neighborhoods.
@John B I am not saying she is not remorseful. I am saying that letter is proof of nothing except damage control from parents. And I am also 100% sure they read letter with her and refined it with her. Not just because of the way the letter is written, but also because they would need to lack common sense if they did not do it. So, using letter to gauge kids level of maturity or responsibility is bound to get bad results.
We live in a fairly blue collar/working class town and there are a lot of folks in our neighborhood who drive vans and work trucks. If every white windowless Ford Transit Connect was reported as suspicious, our police would do nothing but pull over plumbers, flooring contractors, etc.
“An old and badly maintained van can be dangerous enough in law abiding hands.”
How would a child determine that a vehicle is “badly maintained” by looking at it? Dirty? That could have happened earlier that day on a dusty road. Certainly the child can’t tell how recently the oil was changed or the condition of the brakes by looking at a passing vehicle. Rust? Maybe, or maybe it’s just old and from a climate that promotes rust. I don’t really see how an old, rusty van poses a threat to anyone but the owner, and then only if the rust is in the frame rather as well as the body, which again, can’t usually be determined by looking at it as it goes by. Noxious exhaust? Sure you could tell that, but I don’t really see how that’s a marker for the driver of the vehicle being more likely to pose a threat to anyone, except insofar as inhaling the fumes could be a problem. Far more likely, he’s just broke and can’t afford to fix or replace the vehicle.
I think you’re just trying to justify this idea of a vehicle not “looking right” somehow. Yes, a child should be aware of his surroundings and observe if someone is driving erratically or not obeying traffic laws. But that’s not really about the vehicle at all, but about how it’s being driven.
I’ve actually been pulled over for driving a vehicle that didn’t fit into the neighborhood.
I was in an upper-middle-class neighborhood in a suburb about 30 miles from my home (and from where the license plate was registered), it was about 12:30 on a Thursday night/Friday morning, and I was driving a beat-up 10+-year-old pickup with rusted holes in the side of the bed where dents had been pulled out when the truck belonged to its previous owner.
I was on the main drag out of the suburb, driving exactly at the 45 mph speed limit, and I noticed a police car that pulled in behind me and followed me for about a mile before flipping on his “pull over” lights. I pulled over into the nearest lighted shopping center parking lot and waited to see what the trouble was.
Since my license, insurance, and vehicle registration were up to date, and I hadn’t broken any laws, and to his great disappointment the vehicle wasn’t stolen, all he could write me up for was the old standby “license plate light out”. And even at that, it was just a warning, and not a ticket.
I thanked him and continued on my merry way home.
Over 20 years later, I was recently again pulled over for “license plate light out”, but this time I was only about a mile from my own house, headed home; and my car, while another 10+-year-old vehicle, is kept in much better condition than the truck was.
I guess in my area they catch a lot of warranted felons this way, or something.