Parents, schools — and media — are on heightened alert after multiple reports of the ‘suspicious man in a white van.’  Even at GMW, where we try to stay away from media frenzy, especially on stories that have the potential to perpetuate or promote public hysteria, we still check in on it, in our own way. Case in point, covering it in a way that hopefully offers parents help, as we did yesterday with talking points for parents about ‘stranger danger.’

So you’ll have to excuse us when we tell you that the image for today’s “Photo of the Day” came about because we were sorta, kinda chasing the ‘suspicious man in a white van’ story. (Does it help that we’re embarrassed for ourselves too?)

A reader emailed us at around 10 a.m. Thursday morning to let us know she’d spotted a white van that had been pulled over on Rt. 7, and it was surrounded by lots of police activity and a ‘News 12’ van. Even though it was up in Ridgefield, she thought we’d want to know, and wondered in her message if it had anything to do with the story making the rounds.

That was enough to send us scurrying northward on Danbury Rd. just after leaving a message for the Wilton Police public information officer.

Imagine our surprise when we found about a dozen cars, and just as many uniformed police officers and officials (and several other members of the press) standing on the side of Rt. 7, across from the Days Inn at 296 Ethan Allen Highway in Ridgefield. Sure enough, this had nothing to do with the ‘man in the white van,’ but it had everything to do with spot enforcement of cell phone usage behind the wheel. It was part of an effort to curb distracted driving using checkpoints in towns around Danbury.

When we spoke later with Lt. Donald Wakeman, Wilton’s public information officer, he explained that Wilton isn’t currently taking part in the regional effort, although spot enforcement programs like that are done in Wilton throughout the year, ranging in targets from cell phone use, to seat belt checks and formal DUI/drinking-and-driving.

Typically the Wilton Police will notify the public when they plan on doing such checks, even though publicity may warn offenders who then won’t be caught. That’s okay, according to Wakeman, who says prevention is just as much part of the plan as is nabbing anyone caught breaking the law.

“When it comes to any of these programs–‘Click It or Ticket,’ DUI or distracted driving, we hope to get as much voluntary enforcement as possible,” Wakeman explained.

Either way, with advance notice of an organized checkpoint or just on everyday patrol, Wilton police officers are on the lookout for anyone violating the laws of the road. So perhaps the Ridgefield checkpoint can simply serve as another reminder to not text and drive.