AVONDALE — A growing number of women are saying they were the victims of attempted abductions in Avondale and surrounding communities in recent months, but officials say they aren’t aware of the incidents, let alone a pattern.
The reports have been circulating neighborhood Facebook pages for weeks and shared by thousands. In many of them, women said either one man or two men in a white van followed them and harassed them, sometimes sexually.
One woman, who declined to be named for safety reasons, said she was out for a walk with her baby near Belmont and Kimball avenues the morning of July 6 when a man in a white van pulled up and asked for directions. When she got closer, he began to masturbate, she said.
“I was definitely in tears about it,” the woman said. “Now whenever I’m walking I’m looking for a white van.”
The woman didn’t report the incident to police and neither did the other women who shared similar experiences on social media. Because of that, neither the Police Department nor local aldermen could confirm the existence of a pattern. Only one recent incident matching the description — an attempted kidnapping of a 14-year-old girl in Montclare — was reported to police.
What’s clear is women in the area are on high alert. They’re calling on anyone who has experienced or witnessed something similar to contact police.
“Women aren’t taken seriously when these things happen,” said Avondale resident Emily Sullivan, who did call police after witnessing an attempted abduction. She asked Block Club to use a pseudonym for safety reasons. “Oftentimes, because of [that], they live with it quietly. … It’s not OK. Absolutely not OK.”
No Police Record
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), whose ward includes part of Avondale, said his office has not received any reports of attempted abductions in recent weeks.
Ramirez-Rosa said his office also reached out to the 14th and 17th police districts directly after seeing the viral social media posts, and neither district has received reports.
Vicko Alvarez, chief of staff for Ald. Rossana Rodriguez Sanchez (33rd), who also represents part of Avondale, said the police districts that cover the 33rd Ward have no reports of attempted abductions.
“We would have received community alerts regarding the matter. We also have not heard mention of kidnapping at CAPS meetings,” Alvarez said in an email.
Chicago Police spokeswoman Kellie Bartoli couldn’t say whether attempted abductions are on the rise in the Avondale area because many of the incidents weren’t reported to police.
“If anyone has been a victim of a crime, even after the fact, they are urged to call 311 to file a report,” Bartoli said in an email.
But the women who posted to social media at the time didn’t think to call police and file a report, said Sullivan, who said she has talked to several victims.
“A lot of them were saying it was alarming, but I wasn’t hurt, so I didn’t think to call the police … or I could tell the situation was off but nothing happened so I ran away and didn’t call the police,” Sullivan said.
In a Facebook post, one woman said she was followed by a man in a white van at Pulaski Road and Barry Avenue in August and had to duck into a strip mall to escape him.
The woman, whose post drew nearly 175 comments, didn’t return a message, but in a comment she said she didn’t report the incident to police.
“It all happened fast and I was flight mode,” the woman wrote. “I’ve called cops in the past for similar happenings and worse things actually, and got nothing but held up for hours for nothing to be done.”
The description the woman gave of the man who followed her is similar to the description police gave for the driver who attempted to lure a 14-year-old girl in Montclare.
The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Sept. 20, police said.
A 14-year-old girl was walking her dog near Nashville and Wellington avenues when two men in a white van pulled up and started talking to her before following her down a nearby alley, police said.
The teen’s neighbor, who was in the alley, scared the men off, and the teen escaped, according to CBS Chicago.
Police described the driver as a man “with a round face, beard, mustache and dark hair with a receding hairline,” WGN reported. The men drove a white Chevy cargo van with no side windows and two ladders on the roof, one of them red, according to WGN.
‘This Needs To Stop’
Sullivan said she witnessed a troubling incident Sept. 24 at George Street and Harding Avenue.
It was just after 11 p.m. when she and her husband heard “the most horrific screams.”
“You can hear the terror in her voice as she’s screaming at the top of her lungs, “Help, help, help!'” Sullivan said.
The couple rushed outside to find the woman in a silver car with a man in the driver’s seat, Sullivan said. Sullivan’s husband tried to stop the man from driving off but the man swerved around him and sped off.
Sullivan immediately called police, but she didn’t stop there. She went to each of her neighbors to see if anyone knew of a woman who was missing. She also went to nearby businesses to check for surveillance footage of the car.
Bartoli confirmed there was a call for service at that location, but she said no report was filed.
Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) said the incident is being investigated by officers in the 25th Police District, though he’s not aware of any other incidents.
Sullivan said the description circulating social media doesn’t match the man she saw; he was young, clean cut and drove a silver sedan — not a white van.
“To witness this happen and then realize that other women have had weird encounters with a guy in a white van, that was just like OK, enough’s enough,” she said.
“No one’s giving a s— about these women. No one’s doing anything. No one’s talking about it. I’ve had enough. We should feel safe in our neighborhood, we should feel safe walking our dog in broad daylight. This needs to stop.”
Have you or someone you know been the victim of an attempted abduction in the area in recent months? Reach out directly to reporter Mina Bloom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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