Social media driven message describes an incident at Lakeside in which a woman allegedly tried to take a young child away from her grandmother. The message suggests that the woman may have been working with a gang that is trying to snatch children.
This message, which is currently circulating rapidly via social media websites, describes a possible child abduction incident in which a woman allegedly attempted to separate a young girl from her grandmother and take her away. The location of the incident is specified only as "Lakeside". The message claims that the woman may have been part of a gang that is trying to snatch children. It asks users to pass on the information as a warning to parents.
We are currently investigating an isolated incident in which a woman has approached a child, who was with her family, and is reported to have stroked the girl’s head and pinched her cheek. This happened
on Saturday, February 23, 2013 shortly after 1.15pm.
It is possible the woman was just being over-familiar but officers are treating the incident as an alleged common assault and would like to speak to the woman.
Lakeside Shopping Center has also responded to the rumor via the following post on their Facebook Page:
We can confirm the poilce are looking into an incident in which a woman approached a child when the child was with her family at Lakeside on Saturday. We are assisting the police investigation wherever we can. We'd like to reassure everyone that this type of incident is extremely rare but we would always encourage all centre visitors who witness anything unusual to alert our trained security guards or on-site police team in the first instance.
While police are taking the matter seriously, they also state that they have "no information about any on-going criminal gang activity at Lakeside". There does not appear to be any credible evidence to support the claim in the message that the alleged abduction attempt is gang related or a common occurrence.
Certainly, the advice in the message to stay vigilant and keep your children close in public is worth heeding. However, the decided lack of detail and misleading assumptions in this warning are problematical. The message has already spread all around the world. Alas, there are many locations in the world named "Lakeside", but the message makes no attempt to identify which "Lakeside" it is referring to. Nor does the message include a date or time frame for the incident. Thus, the message is likely to continue to spread for months or years causing fear and alarm in communities far, far away from the location where the incident allegedly occurred. Moreover, claiming that such child-snatching incidents are part of an organized gang-related agenda when there is no evidence to support this assumption is not at all helpful.
Social media can certainly be a rapid and effective method of disseminating information. However, it is important that messages contain accurate and up-to-date information and clearly specify locations and times for any incidents described. Otherwise they tend to be counterproductive.
Last updated: February 27, 2013