Police are urging the public to be extra cautious about spreading news about alleged human trafficking and/or kidnapping of women and children as there has been an increase of fake news circulating.
There has been several reports of attempted kidnappings across the country. While SAPS notes that this does occur, many of the incidents in Gauteng have actually been fake news.
According to SAPS, a video that recently surfaced on various social media platforms showing an unknown man frantically claiming to have witnessed a women being kidnapped at the Boulders Shopping Centre in Midrand. However, SAPS reported that a woman was robbed at gunpoint at the shopping centre.
“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suggest that two unknown suspects travelling in an SUV may have followed the woman from a bank where she had reportedly withdrawn a large amount of money.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 six-year old child who was with her, were uninjured and are safe.”
Another fake news story involves a voice note in Afrikaans, in which 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 goes on to substantiate her lies by further claiming that police have confirmed to her that these incidents of kidnappings are 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 amongst communities,” said SAPS.
“In some instances that are not necessarily from social media, some members of the public have taken to 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.”
They warn that fake news often has hidden agendas, and spreading it only serves to continue misinformation.
“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,” said Gauteng Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Elias Mawela.
Parents are urged to remain vigilant and prioritise the safety of their children at all times. Children should not be left unattended as this could create an opportunity for criminals to pounce.
Members of the public are urged to report crime and/or suspicious activities by contacting their nearest police station or calling the SAPS crime stop number 08600 10111. Information may also be conveyed to the police on the MySAPS App that can be downloaded on any smartphone.