In a recent televised news conference and interview, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he’s concerned about a white van “snatching” young girls to sell their organs. But Baltimore Police say they have no reports of any such incidents.
Young’s source, according to an interview with WBAL, is social media.
“We’re getting reports of somebody in a white van trying to snatch up young girls for human trafficking and for selling body parts, I’m told. So we have to be careful because there’s so much evil going on, not just in the city of Baltimore, but around the country,” he said. “It’s all over Facebook.”
Police spokesman Matt Jablow said the department is “aware of the posts on social media, but we do not have any reports of actual incidents.”
Young’s claim echoes a statement he made during one of his weekly news conferences last month. Asked Nov. 20 whether he plans to sign a bill banning retailers’ use of plastic bags, Young responded he hasn’t taken a position yet because he’s focusing on more important issues like murders, shootings and other crime.
“Now, I’m worried about people pulling up in vans, snatching young girls to take their organs or sell them into prostitution.”— Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young
“Now, I’m worried about people pulling up in vans, snatching young girls to take their organs or sell them into prostitution,” he added.
Organizations that fight human trafficking warn that a pervasive myth about the crime is that it always involves a Hollywood-style kidnapping. Oftentimes, human traffickers use other tools to prey on vulnerable people.
“While some traffickers physically hold the people they exploit, it is more common for them to use psychological means of control,” according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Fear, trauma, drug addiction, threats against families, and a lack of options due to poverty and homelessness can all prevent someone from leaving.”
Young’s spokesman Lester Davis said the mayor’s intention was never to spread alarm. Davis said Young believes that when a person sees reports of a crime — even if the details “on their face seemed unlikely” — they ought to tell police.
“When citizens hear about things alleged to have taken place,” Davis said, “the mayor wants to encourage them to reach out to the police and let the police do their job, which is to investigate claims.”