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E-mail Frenzy About 'Suspicious' Van Sparks Undue Concern

Vehicle actually owned by legitimate business

Posted: February 11, 2009 5:48 p.m.
Updated: February 11, 2009 2:53 p.m.

This flyer accompanied an e-mail about a suspicious-looking van spotted recently in Valencia. It turns out the license plate number listed is incorrect and the vehicle belongs to a legitimate business.

 
Recently, e-mails have been rapidly circulating throughout the Santa Clarita Valley area containing a publicly created flier with unsubstantiated information about a maroon colored van possibly casing Santa Clarita neighborhoods.

This e-mail, entitled "suspicious van in Valencia (Be careful)," contains an unofficial flier (click on the document link at left to view full version).

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station received one call regarding this van on Wednesday, January 28, 2009, at 7:58 p.m. which apparently precipitated the flier. The call stated that a "red" ford van with tinted windows and two male adult occupants were in the area of Via Heraldo and Avenida Navarre, Valencia, all day acting suspiciously. The caller also gave a license plate of "5MEJD49".

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station has conducted an investigation into this van and the information listed in the flier. The license plate provided in the call and on the flier was off by one digit. We have identified the van and its registered owner as a legitimate licensed business operating out of Moorpark California. The business deals in the demonstration and sales of a specific brand of vacuum cleaners. They generally conduct demonstrations by appointment only and also canvas neighborhoods when in the area in an effort to generate interest and sales.

Although the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station encourages public involvement and awareness and we encourage all residents to call us when they see suspicious persons or vehicles in their neighborhoods, we also advocate responsible reporting and distribution of information when it comes to potential crimes or persons and vehicles of interest.

Had the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station been aware of any crime or activity specific to this van or any other vehicle that was relevant to public safety, release, and/or dissemination, we would have posted and released an official Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Special Informational Bulletin or press release.

Although the creation of such a flier is not illegal, we strongly recommend that residents verify all information with local authorities prior to releasing it. The creating of these types of bulletins, fliers, and e-mails can cause undue fear or even panic. It can also potentially lead other community members to take inappropriate or unlawful action that may result in civil or criminal liability on the part of the creator.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station responds to dozens of calls regarding suspicious vans, vehicles, and persons every week. These calls help us protect our community. Neighborhood Watch is a key component of what we do. We need your eyes, ears, and involvement and we realize that. We strongly encourage residents to continue calling and reporting such suspicious persons or vehicles. We also recommend that you frequently visit our Web site at www.SCVSheriff.com to verify public safety related information or contact the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station at (661) 255-1121 to verify information received via e-mail or other unverifiable sources.

Information sharing is very important in our fight against crime and protecting our communities and the Internet can sometimes be the best means of disseminating that information. However, inaccurate information that has not been thoroughly investigated and verified can be detrimental to any active investigation and the public. Only information officially pertinent to public safety in the Santa Clarita Valley and released by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, the City of Santa Clarita, the County of Los Angeles, and any other reputable media outlets should be considered as factual, accurate, and/or verified.

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