Social media can be a great way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and family. It is also useful for spreading the word about upcoming events, fundraisers and for sounding the alarm about potential scams and dangerous events happening around us.
But one such post made over the weekend was based on untrue information.
A mother posted on Facebook Friday about how her adult daughter was almost the victim of kidnapping from in front of a local pet store. The mother went so far as to describe a suspect and a suspected vehicle, and even posted a photograph of the alleged suspect’s van.
“Our department did not learn about this incident until Sunday morning, Aug. 14th, when the alleged ‘suspect’ and his family contacted us,” said Albertville Assistant Police Chief John Amos.
“Prior to then, our department had received no such reports of an attempted kidnapping. Our department reached out to the business where the alleged incident occurred, but they had not received any such reports either. The alleged suspect turned out to be a long-time, well-respected member of our community. He and his family were deeply upset by the allegations circulating on social media, and even felt fearful for their safety due to some of the threatening comments.”
Amos said officers investigated the matter and discovered the man was merely driving through the parking lot of the shopping center at the same time the woman left the pet store. His van has a broken sliding door latch and he is known to routinely leave the door open while driving.
“When the alleged victim saw the van approach her with the open door, she reportedly became scared because she thought it was suspicious,” Amos said.
“Kidnapping and human trafficking are crimes of the most serious nature. Our department encourages citizens to be ever mindful of their surroundings at all times, and if you see something suspicious, please report it to our Department DIRECTLY by calling 256-878-1212, or 911 in cases of emergency.
“Social media can be a great tool, but as we have determined in this situation, it can also quickly spread misinformation that may cause undue alarm to the community. With that said, despite what may have been shared on social media, our department currently has no open kidnapping investigations.
“The City of Albertville is proud to have such a safe community to live, work, and shop! And we are very thankful to our community members, and the members of the Albertville Police Department, who work hard each day to keep it that way!”