How Saraland Police investigated, debunked viral sex trafficking post
SARALAND, Ala. (WPMI) —
A mother believed a group of people at a local gas station were plotting to abduct her daughter. Her Saraland human-trafficking fear has now gone viral.
NBC 15 got the exclusive surveillance footage leading police to an outcome helping many sleep better tonight.
Hours after creating a Facebook post shared by nearly 10,000 people, a mother called police and tipped them off that there could be a group of human traffickers inside a Saraland gas station.
She anonymously told NBC 15, she believed at least three people were monitoring her three-year-old daughter using the bathroom.
“I looked up and this woman was looking over the top of the stall,” the terrified mother said, adding “When I turned to look over my shoulder, I was getting my daughter off the toilet and the door was cracked. I knew I locked it”
Surveillance video showed the mother, her daughter, and a group the mom believed to be up to no good, all heading towards the bathroom area.
Five Saraland police investigators dedicated six hours towards reviewing the footage and interviewing witnesses.
Their finding: This wasn't trafficking but a big misunderstanding.
“We had a basketball team of young adults that were just stopping and made an environment that made someone uncomfortable,” Saraland police department’s Bryan Mims said, adding “In no way was this some kind of abduction or even illegal action that took place.”
In addition to reviewing surveillance and examining the scene of this report, SPD spoke to the coach of the girls’ basketball team, employees at the gas station, and the mother several times.
“It just seems like a bunch of people were in a bathroom for two people at the same time and it just got too close for comfort,” Detective Mims said.
“You hear about these networks that work together and they snatch children away from their mothers so I was very relieved to hear this was part of a basketball team,” the terrified mother said.
This case shined a light on the power of social media. Police want people to alert authorities always before posting allegations online.
“We are sad that someone felt that way and we wish they would have reached out to us earlier so we could have figured this out a lot sooner,” Detective Mims said.
Police revealed this information Friday afternoon.
The Saraland Police Department was contacted and made aware of a Facebook post that claimed an act of human trafficking or an attempted abduction of a child related to human trafficking took place at a gas station in Saraland Alabama. The incident has been investigated, several patrons of the store, including the original person who made the Facebook post, have been interviewed, the employees have been interviewed and video surveillance recordings have been viewed. At no time was there a criminal act or any intent of a criminal act related to Human Trafficking or a child abduction take place. There was a lady’s basketball team that was traveling back home and stopped in Saraland to allow their team members to use the restroom and buy snacks who were inside of the store at the same time as the Facebook poster and she felt those women were being held against their will and were being “smuggled” by their coach. In no way was this the case nor was it an attempted joke or hoax, the students were merely stopping as a team on their way home from an out of town game, the same as thousands of others do most weekends across the nation.
If you should find yourself in a situation that seems odd or makes you uneasy please contact the local law enforcement agency immediately, an immediate response and investigation can result in faster and accurate information if a true crime has occurred and can also help assure the citizen if their feeling was right and that they did actually help someone. Making a post on social media with unverified claims only creates a stress and panic amongst the community that can be totally avoided through proper reporting through 9-1-1. Social media accounts for law enforcement agencies may or may not be monitored by departments on a minute by minute basis and if you feel threatened or feel a crime is in progress, the 9-1-1 system is set up and designed to provide the fastest and best coordinated response.