Cops clear men at mall

Niagara Re­gional Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­veals ‘no crim­i­nal in­tent’ af­ter al­le­ga­tion of hu­man traf­fick­ing made on so­cial me­dia

The Welland Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE JOHN­SON

Niagara Re­gional Po­lice said re­cent so­cial me­dia posts warn­ing par­ents of a po­ten­tial hu­man traf­fick­ing ring in Niagara — with one in­ci­dent al­leged to have taken place at The Out­let Col­lec­tion in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the other at Canada One Fac­tory Out­lets in Niagara Falls — have been in­ves­ti­gated by de­tec­tives.

Po­lice said while there are hu­man traf­fick­ing rings in Niagara, the two al­leged in­ci­dents were not in any way part of one.

One of the posts was on Face­book and was shared Sun­day.

It read: “Im­por­tant!!! Please read !!!! I want to share what hap­pened to us to­day while shop­ping at the out­lets on Lundy’s Lane. My 3 girls and I were shop­ping in Nike when I no­ticed two men very close to us that couldn’t take their eyes off my girls. I got a very un­easy feel­ing right away and told my girls to stay with me.

“They sep­a­rated im­me­di­ately when I took out my phone and one man looked at the other and shook his head as if to say “no”. I took my girls to the other side of the store and now no­ticed two dif­fer­ent men star­ring and get­ting closer and a third man stand­ing by the en­trance and exit doors all of which had their cell phones out.

“I turned and said to my girls ‘what is go­ing on’ all of my girls no­ticed the men and felt the same way I did. I got on the phone to call my hus­band and when I started to tell him what was go­ing the two men near­est to us left the store im­me­di­ately and the man that was near the doors was gone too!!

“There was still one man left inside walk­ing around the back so I watched two of the men from the store win­dow get into their car that was parked one row over from where we parked. The car they were driv­ing was a black Mercedes SUV but the li­cense plate was not from Ont.

“I got a par­tial plate # AKLP the last three num­bers were blurry from our view. My youngest daugh­ter told me one of the men was fol­low­ing be­hind us when we went into Nike but she didn’t think any­thing of it at the time.

“She said he came up be­tween our car and the car parked next to us. When Nike was asked for se­cu­rity footage they said the cam­eras were not work­ing!! I am a mother who has shopped thou­sands of times with my girls over the years and I have never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like this.

“My motherly in­stincts were scream­ing at me some­thing was not right.. I have filed a po­lice re­port but please, please be aware when you are in the park­ing lot and out shop­ping. Al­ways be aware of your sur­round­ings!!

“We are a Bor­der Town and Hu­man traf­fick­ing is real and can hap­pen any­where. Peo­ple in­sisted I write this post to let oth­ers know what hap­pened to­day.

We think noth­ing of let­ting our kids go to the mall or the out­lets but I’m telling you what hap­pened to me to­day was real and very scary. 5 men, spread out in the store, it only takes a minute and one can be gone.

The first post claimed to have taken place at Canada One Fac­tory Out­lets, on Lundy’s Lane. It was fol­lowed by a sec­ond post Mon­day which claimed the same sort of in­ci­dent took place at The Out­let Col­lec­tion in Niagara-on-the-Lake

“We take th­ese con­cerns and al­le­ga­tions very se­ri­ously. De­tec­tives with the 2-District Niagara Falls Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion Branch (CIB) have iden­ti­fied the men in­volved who were shop­ping at the mall at the time. Af­ter re­view­ing sur­veil­lance footage and con­duct­ing in­ter­views po­lice have found the men were not known to one an­other and no crim­i­nal in­tent was in­volved. The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is now con­sid­ered to be closed. The in­ci­dent men­tioned in a se­condary post at The Out­let Col­lec­tion was not re­ported to po­lice,” po­lice said in a post on their Face­book page.

Me­dia spokesman Const. Phil Gavin said so­cial me­dia is a very pow­er­ful thing, and in this case some very well-in­ten­tioned peo­ple who were at­tempt­ing to share a great mes­sage about keep­ing them­selves and chil­dren safe chose to use Face­book in a very pub­lic way.

“Face­book can be a great tool for shar­ing in­for­ma­tion. It is one of our main pub­lic com­mu­ni­ca­tions tools. Face­book posts that are pub­lic can also leave the au­thor open to sig­nif­i­cant scru­tiny from other so­cial me­dia users. That scru­tiny can be rather harsh at times.”

Gavin said po­lice rec­om­mend mem­bers of the pub­lic who have been in­volved with them in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion not post about it.

“It can cre­ate chal­lenges to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. In some cases, the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion/ev­i­dence that our in­ves­ti­ga­tors would have tried to pro­tect. In other cases, the au­thor may not pos­sess the full knowl­edge of the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and their post, while done in good faith may have in­ac­cu­ra­cies,” he said in an email.

He said an­other con­sid­er­a­tion is that many peo­ple’s se­cu­rity set­tings are loose or lax.

“When peo­ple post about a po­lice mat­ter that they may have in­ti­mate knowl­edge of as ei­ther a vic­tim, wit­ness, or fam­ily mem­ber, the pub­lic or mem­bers of a crim­i­nal ele­ment may be able to learn per­sonal things about you, such as where you work, your ad­dress, what your fam­ily looks like and so on.”

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