Don’t go looking for love in all the wrong places — or at least, use some caution in arranging dates with strangers met online, New Orleans police warned on Tuesday after the carjacking of another luckless suitor in Central City.
In the most recent case — the third under similar circumstances in recent weeks — an 18-year-old man from Gretna drove to the 2100 block of Danneel Street around 9:30 p.m. Monday (June 28) to meet a woman he had corresponded with online, said NOPD Sixth District Commander Bob Bardy in a crowded news conference Tuesday. The woman came to the car, got in, then got back out of the car, Bardy said. Then, a group of eight to 10 men appeared — at least four of whom had guns — and took the man’s belongings and car, a 1998 bluish-purple Dodge Durango with a faded white hood and Louisiana license plate WXX 973.
The victim tried going to several nearby homes for help, Bardy said, but no one assisted him — suggesting that his assailants might have lived nearby as well. The victim then walked to the Sixth District station to report the crime.
The investigation so far indicates that the woman intentionally set the man up, Bardy said. She has yet to be identified, but investigators are working on that, he said.
The case bears similarities to two other incidents in recent weeks. Around 11 p.m. July 11, a man in his mid-20s went to the 1500 block of Baronne for a meeting with a woman he’d arranged over social media, but was robbed by three men instead, police said at the time.Around 4 a.m. July 23, another man went to the 2200 block of St. Anthony to meet a woman known to him as “Ali W” from the social-networking site “Tagged,” police said at the time. He talked to the woman for about five minutes, then she got out and a man got in, demanding the victim get out of his car. They began to struggle, and a second assailant then arrived with a gun and forced the victim out of the car, a Dodge Challenger painted with red flames. The two attackers and Ali W then all drove off in the man’s car.
That Challenger has since been recovered, Bardy said, and the case is close to being cleared. It is too early to say whether the same group of people are behind more than one incident, he said, but the risk is the same regardless.
“I don’t want to really rule out are they connected or not connected, because we’re still in a preliminary phase of investigation right now,” Bardy said. “But the common thread is that people are doing this, and it does have some overt dangers to it.”
The cases are not unlike robberies that have been the result of Craigslist postings, Bardy said, in which people go to an unfamiliar neighborhood to answer a Craigslist ad and end up robbed.
“Use some sense about it,” Bardy said. “You wouldn’t get a call from a total stranger and come to Baronne Street in the wee hours of the morning expecting to meet somebody you don’t know.”
It would not be practical to tell young people to stay off online dating services, Bardy said. Instead, he asked that they simply be taught to exercise the same caution they would in any rendezvous.
“This is a younger generation, and this is an application people do use,” Bardy said. “So let’s use some common sense. Why can’t you meet in a well-lit restaurant, in public, where this won’t happen?”