Normally I don’t write about crime blotter type stuff but this is the exception to that rule. Two days ago the Alameda Police Department put out a Nixle release about a “Suspicious Vehicle” from reports that were made last Friday. Now, I had heard about these sighting, but on Friday they were reported at Alameda Point and near Coast Guard housing.
Because the Nixle alert went out with a loose correlation to the incidents in Berkeley, naturally the tv news media thought it would be a great idea to stand in front of Ruby Bridges Elementary to report the “story” that a car that may or may not have been been the actual van that actually did try to abduct kids in Berkeley as opposed to, oh I don’t know, actually doing a report around the middle school where the incident actually occurred.
Not only that, Channel 2 news decided that the best time to make this report would be during drop off time in the morning to maximize the confusion and hopefully get some super angry parents on camera.
And instead of using footage from the parent who said that she felt as though Ruby Bridges School was very safe, instead the clip used was one of a parent saying that she never lets her kids out of her sight anyway and her child indicating that nervousness and a lack of desire to venture outside.
To add to the circus, another news team was caught filming Ruby Bridges’ Kindergarten yard while kids were present. So essentially here are the optics that resulted from the Nixle alert (which they styled as a “Press Release”):
Cut to shot of Ruby Bridges Elementary School (where nothing actually happened by the way), cut to shot of Ruby Bridges sign, of notice on the gate about security and talk about how the police sent out this “press release.” Naturally the majority of people who are only half paying attention to this news report will see Ruby Bridges Elementary, see the school, and think something bad actually happened on the campus.
So, I contacted the Police Chief and clearly expressed my dismay. Of course I was a lot more calm than I had been when I heard — and saw — what the tv news type people were up to yesterday morning. So according to the always super responsive Chief Paul Rolleri this is what the Alameda incident on Friday morning was:
On Friday morning at 8:02am, we received a call from a Ruby Bridges parent who was walking her kids to school. She reported the suspicious green van was parked near the Commissary at Alameda Point. She did not see anyone inside, but reported that she thought the same van was driving slowly around the school on some prior occasion. She was not able to give us a license plate or even a partial plate. We sent an officer down to check out her concern. The officer showed up about four minutes later, but could not locate the van. He checked around the area for another 15 minutes or so, then cleared that call as GOA (gone on arrival). No official police report was taken, but we did record the call for service on a 3×5 incident card (used for routine non-criminal calls for service).
According to Chief Rolleri the reason why the Nixle alert was sent out almost a week later was from an abundance of caution because community members had been contacting the District, the school, and the police department asking for more details. Probably because of the churning rumor mill that circulates when there is a lack of concrete information to point to and say “hey, this is what happened.”
While, naturally, the Berkeley incident gives the community a teaching moment to reflect on personal safety, it’s disappointing to be confronted with the fact that our news media, which is supposed to inform and not inflame, took the easy road by not attempting to get more details from the Police Department first before speeding out to frame a story about stranger danger using Ruby Bridges Elementary as the backdrop.