WICHITA, Kan. The Wichita Police Department debunks rumors associated with a post that's gone viral, seen by many on the Nextdoor App or on Facebook.
Some parts of the post, however, are true. In the post, a woman claims she was approached by a woman in a minivan Sunday at Towne East Mall in east Wichita. She says the woman asked her to watch her baby, which she thought was odd.
The woman reported this to a security officer at the mall. That information is all true, but police say more to this story is false. The woman claimed the officer told her it was part of human trafficking and that she could have been pulled inside the van. Wichita police say this last part never happened.
Jennifer White with ICT SOS has worked with human trafficking victims in Wichita for eight years. She says posts like this often come to her attention. She says these mostly false posts can take away resources from legitimate human trafficking investigations and often teach people the wrong things to watch out for.
"So, when we see these posts go viral, people get really aware of their surroundings in parking lots and things, and that's great," White says. "You should always be aware of those things. But we don't see human trafficking play out like that in Wichita."
She says she's never seen a case in Wichita where someone was abducted in public.
"If I'm a trafficker and I abduct somebody out of a parking lot in broad daylight, first of all, that's probably going to attract attention, right?" White says. "And the first opportunity that that person has to get away and report me, they're going to."
She says in most cases, human trafficking starts with a grooming process.
"If that trafficker builds a relationship with somebody, manipulates them, gets them to feel like it's their fault, they're making those choices, it's much easier to coerce somebody into a trafficking situation than it is to force them into it," White says.
If you come across a post like the recent one from Wichita on Nextdoor and Facebook, White says you should first check for accuracy before sharing it. Check to see if the case has been reported to police and if legitimate news outlets are covering it.
She says the bigger picture is to make sure your children are educated on what they're doing on social media as that's where most human traffickers find victims.