Stop sharing fake news about human trafficking and kidnapping, cops urge

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Police have urged people to stop spreading fake news.
Police have urged people to stop spreading fake news.
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  • Police have asked the public to stop spreading fake news about human trafficking and kidnapping of women and children. 
  • This follows two recent incidents where bogus claims relating to kidnappings and human trafficking went viral on social media. 
  • Police say people have also approached the media with claims that turned out to be false. 

The South African Police Service (SAPS) has urged the public to stop spreading fake news and bogus messages about human trafficking and kidnapping of women and children.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said police in Gauteng were deeply concerned about the continued peddling of fake news and cautioned the public against the "incessant promotion and distribution of such malicious untruths".

This follows an incident where a video clip surfaced on various social media platforms in which an unknown man frantically claims to have witnessed the kidnapping of a woman at gunpoint at the Boulders Shopping Centre in Midrand.

Peters said the Midrand police responded on Tuesday to an armed robbery at the centre, but no one had been kidnapped. 

"On Tuesday morning at around 11:15 at the Boulders Shopping Centre, police from the Midrand SAPS responded to an incident where a woman was allegedly robbed of an undisclosed amount of cash at gunpoint," Peters said. 

Uninjured and safe

"Preliminary investigations suggest that two unknown suspects travelling in an SUV may have followed the woman from a bank where she had reportedly withdrawn a large amount of money. The suspects are said to have accosted the victim in the basement parking at the shopping centre and demanded money from her at gunpoint.

"The suspects made off with the victim's handbag and other valuables. Both the woman and a 6-year-old child, who was with her, were uninjured and are safe."

READ | Restaurant child snatching incident not linked to human trafficking - police

In another fake story recorded on a voicenote in Afrikaans, a woman calling herself "Jeanie from NCIS" claims that a child was kidnapped at a Pick n Pay store in Brits and that similar incidents happened in Nelspruit, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.

The woman further claimed police confirmed to her that incidents of kidnapping were on the increase.

"Police can confirm that this, too, is nothing but just a perpetuation of this trending act of malice that only seeks to sow panic and pandemonium among communities," Peters said. 

Media approached with false claims

"Some members of the public have [approached] mainstream media with allegations of human trafficking and kidnapping, claiming to know victims or to have witnessed incidents personally. However, when police reach out to determine specific cases, incidents or police stations for purposes of investigation, no such detail can be provided by the same people."

Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela urged the public to stop spreading fake news.

ALSO READ | People who spread fake news are either criminals or just stupid - social media experts

"The anonymity that often surrounds the identity of the creators or sources of fake news, confirms that the intention can only be hostile, seeking to unsettle community-police relations that the SAPS is working so hard to build and restore," Mawela said.

Peters said police in Gauteng would continue to give priority attention to genuine cases of human trafficking, kidnappings, as well as crimes against women, children, and other vulnerable persons.

"Parents are urged to remain vigilant and prioritise the safety of their children at all times and to always be aware of the children's whereabouts. Children should not be left unattended as this could create an opportunity for criminals to commit crime."

Members of the public are encouraged to report any crime or suspicious activities by contacting their nearest police station or calling the SAPS Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.

Information can also be conveyed to the police on the My SAPS app that can be downloaded on any smartphone.

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