JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Armed men driving an innocent-seeming vehicle have robbed several people in the Riverside area. Police said a trio of crooks has been catching its victims off guard by traveling in a vehicle labeled “Church Van.”
Two armed robberies recently took place at different locations just minutes apart, but police said what both crimes have in common is that the victims said the thieves were in the church van.According to police, the first armed robbery happened outside Robert E. Lee High School on Wednesday shortly before midnight.
The victim told investigators he was walking when a large white van drove up that had church van printed on it in faded letters.
Police said two men with a gun jumped out of the van and started yelling at the victim to get on the ground before taking his wallet.Another incident took place in similar fashion in the Riverside area, but this time it was two women who said the church van drove up and two men came running out, pointed a gun and forced them to the ground.Neighbors in the area said the church-van description is alarming.“There’s several community churches around here, and you’ll see lots of white vans that say church van be it faded or not,” said Jennifer Bradley. “It’s just one of the things you see all the time. You assume if you see church van on the side of a vehicle like that that it’s a church van and that it’s a safe vehicle.”Jennifer and Erica Bradley said they never think twice when church vans drive by because to them the vehicles stand for safety and trust.“You’re going to church, for heaven’s sakes. This should be a safe thing to do, and it should be respected. Obviously it’s not,” said Erica Bradley.Police said none of the victims robbed were hurt. They also said there were three men involved in the robberies, including one driver and two men who jumped out with guns.