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Lakeside Attempted Abduction Warning

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.

Chilc shopping with Grandmother

Brief Analysis
Essex UK Police are currently investigating an incident in which a young child was approached and touched by a woman at Lakeside Shopping Center in West Thurrock, Essex. The circulating warning is apparently derived from this incident. Police have stated that they have no information about any on-going criminal gang activity at Lakeside and consider the approach an isolated incident.


Warning to all parents my mum has had a text off her friend who took her Grandaughter to Lakeside, she was holding her hand when a lady barged through the middle of them seperating herself and her Grandaughter she quickly went to grab her hand back , but the lady was still trying to keep hold of her grandaughters other hand and was trying to get the little girl off her nan !!! THIS IS NO JOKE the police have been given an efit of the lady and the police have said these women are working in gangs trying to snatch children, pass them off to other members of the gang and quickly get them out of lakeside,PLEASE keep ur eyes peeled and stay close to ur children tightly xx " ....Please pass this info on

Detailed Analysis
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.

The warning is apparently derived from an incident that took place at Lakeside Shopping Center in West Thurrock, Essex, UK on 23th February 2013. Essex police have published a statement on their website discussing the rumour. The statement notes:

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.

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Last updated: February 27, 2013
First published: February 27, 2013
Written by Brett M. Christensen
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Rumours about criminal gang activity at Lakeside
Lakeside Facebook Post

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