NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Information travels at the speed of light on social media, and while being aware of potential threats is a good thing, you might not want to believe everything you read online.
For example, earlier this week a post was shared with a Facebook group, focusing on the Ogden area, that described an attempted kidnapping taking place.
The post described two black males in a silver van who apparently tried to kidnap a woman and who were on the loose. According to the post, police had identified the suspects, who supposedly had previous criminal records.
The post read: Be aware of 2 black guys in Ogden area in a silver van! They JUST tried to kidnap a lady i [sic] know in Ogden! The cops ID them and they have a record but they haven’t caught them yet! Please Please Please ladies be careful I’m shaking and this didn’t even happen to me but it could of easily have been!
Usually, this type of information would be helpful in keeping residents safe, but there is just one problem — according to the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, nothing of the sort ever happened.
With the recent incidents of residents being attacked in their backyards in Ogden, residents are on edge and social media has been ripe with rumors, theories, and suspicion.
Take for example when a helicopter is spotted over the Ogden area.
Within minutes of a helicopter sighting, posts are made with commenters offering their opinions as to what they are doing, assuming it is SABLE (Southeastern NC Air-Borne Law Enforcement).
But according to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office (NHCSO) spokesperson Jerry Brewer, SABLE is not dispatched unless there are actual incidents being reported — and it had not been sent to Ogden, nor had the area had any significant incidents, within the past few weeks (SABLE was dispatched briefly for a call about three weeks ago, but the incident didn’t end up with a suspect being sighted).
But it’s not just Ogden facing these issues.
The Wilmington Police Department had to set the record straight after reports of someone in a white van trying to ‘lure kids into it’ went viral on Facebook earlier this week.
There had not been any incidents reported to police regarding the van or any attempted kidnappings, yet panic took over social media, with a post shared at least 34,000 times.
Police said they were attempted to combat misinformation in sharing and addressing the post.
So while social media has proven itself helpful to police in the past, authorities say it is important to verify the veracity of information shared online before continuing to spread it.