News

Cops clear men at mall

By The Tribune

(Source: Niagara Regional Police)

(Source: Niagara Regional Police)

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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