Toronto Police warn of creepy man in white SUV harassing women
Residents of Toronto's west end have been growing increasingly concerned about public safety in recent weeks as reports continue to surface of a male motorist doing bizarre and unsettling things to female pedestrians.
The Toronto Police Service issued an alert on Wednesday to announce three "indecent act investigations," all of them stemming from incidents near the Trinity Bellwoods area.
Officers responded to the Queen Street West and Dovercourt Road area around 2:10 a.m. on Monday, July 27, where they say a 30-year-old woman was "approached by a man in a car asking for directions."
The woman agreed to point out a location on the man's phone, but when he passed it to her, police say "a pornographic video was playing."
"He then committed an indecent act and drove away," reads the public safety alert.
The exact same thing happened roughly 20 minutes later to another 30-year-old woman near King Street West and Sudbury street.
Public Safety Alert, Man sought in three indecent act investigations, Near Trinity Bellwoods Area ^gr https://t.co/mUrAnKi49L— 14 Division (@TPS14Div) August 12, 2020
Then, on Wednesday, Aug. 5, around 2 a.m., officers responded to the Dundas Street West and Bathurst Street area for another strikingly similar call.
Police say that a 24-year-old woman had been walking in the area when she was approached by a man in a car asking for directions. Once again, after she agreed to show him the location on a map, the man passed her a phone with porn playing on it and "committed an indecent act."
"It is believed the same man is responsible for all of these incidents," reads the police alert. "He is described as brown, 30-35, 5'5", 150 lbs., slim build, with dark hair, brown eyes, and stubble growth of a beard."
Toronto Police say that the man was driving an "older model black Honda Civic" on July 27, and a white SUV on Aug. 5.
Dozens of social media posts mentioning a man in a white SUV (usually a Nissan) have also emerged over the past month, many of them describing encounters where women are approached by a man asking for directions. The man has been said to grow aggressive if the women refuse, and in some cases has been said to follow them for a time in his car.
While some of these posts are re-posts of first hand accounts warning others to beware, the number of comments left under some of them from women who've experienced the same thing recently are truly disturbing.
reposting a situation that happened to my friend. downtown, toronto area. please be aware while you’re on road and don’t stop for anybody! pic.twitter.com/T1nFYsVrOi— CHECK MY PINNED TWEET 💙 (@SoBluntImSmokin) August 9, 2020
"This happened to me and my friend last Friday night on king street. We were walking to Marbl, probably one block away from it. As we are walking this guy comes up to us and is like excuse me do you know how to get to Bathurst and Spadina," wrote one Toronto woman in response to a now-viral Instagram post detailing another person's scary encounter at Queen and Lansdowne.
"I told the guy no, I don't know, and my friend and I kept walking. He then kept following and walking beside us and I said 'excuse me don't you have a phone? Use your GPS how to get there.' He said something along the lines of his phone was dead or he didn’t have it on him and could he use one of ours."
The woman says she and her friend walked away safely into a crowd of other people along King West.
"I live just off Queen near the Drake and last weekend (either Saturday or Sunday) early in the morning, around 8 a.m., I was taking my dog out for a walk. There was a white SUV parked in the road which then turned into an alley in front of me," wrote another woman in a thread about the string of incidents on Reddit.
"The guy rolled down his window and started asking about my dog. He then opened his passenger door and the dog ran up and he was petting him still talking crap... I was trying to pull the dog down without getting closer, and I made a comment about the dog being very friendly. He said something creepy like 'I hope his owner is too' and I just left with the dog."
"I remember after thinking he looked like a guy that had approached me in the park outside my condo the previous week," noted that commenter.
He asked me for directions (I believe to the Queensway, but I'm not sure). I was jogging and visibly had headphones in. I paused for a moment, kind of shocked, and then kept running fast until I was close to home muttering something about my "boyfriend waiting for me" to the man— Madison Trusolino (@peskykilljoy) August 11, 2020
Most women will be able to tell you at least one story of being subject to catcalling, public exposure, stalking, groping or other types of assault and harassment.
The phenomenon is not new, but the fact that so many women are speaking out about the same thing happening to them, in the same parts of town, has people paying attention.
There at least appears to be enough of a pattern involving one individual's behaviour that police have now issued a public safety alert, which doesn't often happen in proportion to how often women are harassed by strangers.
Furthermore, these reports have been trickling in amid other disturbing stories involving sexual assault and harassment in Toronto.
Toronto Police reported that a woman in the area of Dupont Street and Ossington Avenue had been followed home by an unidentified suspect in the early morning hours of Aug. 7.
The man is said to have entered the woman's home without her knowledge "and sexually assaulted her once inside" before fleeing.
ATTN TORONTO: Frequent abduction attempts❗️RT to boost— ajuki (@AjukiWebster) July 28, 2020
Ladies be on high alert in the Parkdale and Roncesvalles area, in the last couple of weeks a lot of scary things have been happening in the city’s westend. pic.twitter.com/XQpuaSorSh
Earlier in July, a 37-year-old man was arrested and charged following a series of assaults targeting women in the Roncesvalles area.
Community members also warned of alleged abduction attempts in Roncesvalles as well as nearby Parkdale.
Fortunately, local residents and community groups have been banding together in recent weeks to warn each other of such incidents and keep an eye out for suspicious activity themselves.
"It's been going on for weeks apparently, I'm amazed the police haven't tracked this guy down with the number of people reporting it, or posting on social media about it," wrote one person on Reddit of the alleged white SUV driver, specifically.
"As someone who lives in the area, white SUV guy is getting a lot of press but he's not the only creeper out there right now," wrote another.
"Keep your wits about you, it's scary out there right now. There's a lot of places I would have felt comfortable walking that I avoid now."
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