Police caution against overestimating danger of strangers - KCTV5 News

Police caution against overestimating danger of strangers

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Diandra Toyos suspects her children may have been eyed by human traffickers at an IKEA store in Covina, California. (CBS/Facebook/Diandra Toyos) Diandra Toyos suspects her children may have been eyed by human traffickers at an IKEA store in Covina, California. (CBS/Facebook/Diandra Toyos)

If you're a parent who has Facebook, there's a good chance you've seen an alarming story shared on your feed from a mother who believes two men tried to kidnap her children while they were out shopping. However, many safety experts worry it is sending the wrong message about safety to parents.

The post has gone viral after being shared thousands of times and is getting national attention, but not just because of what happened at the store.

In the post, a mother details what she says happened to her at an IKEA in California earlier this month.

She writes that two men, who were clean cut and middle-aged, followed her and her three children around IKEA. She said they circled them, sat when they sat and stood as they stood.

She said the men left them alone in the end, but she wrote that she firmly believes her children were being targeted for human trafficking.

She said she wanted to share her story to alert other parents.

With more than 105,000 shares and more than 16,000 comments, she definitely has.

However, Wyandotte County Sheriff's Major Kelli Bailiff says only 1 percent of kidnappings happen at the hands of a true stranger.

“There's no such thing as ‘stranger danger,’” Bailiff said. “At the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, we have been trying for over 15 years to retire that term.”

She says, while possible, she highly doubts the situation the mother wrote about was a case of attempted kidnapping for human trafficking.

“That's not typically what we're finding when we work human trafficking cases,” Bailiff said. “Human trafficking cases are usually brought about in a different manner.”

Human trafficking experts say more than 85 percent of victims are tweens or teens, most of whom are at-risk or have some sort of instability in their lives. A vast majority are taken by someone with whom they already have a relationship.

That would be someone the victim knows who has been grooming them for months or even years

Simply put, law enforcement says to look for the danger right in front of your eyes: someone who has contact with your children every day and not a random stranger at the store.

Since she first made the post last week, the mom says she's gotten backlash from people wondering why she posted her family's picture and questioning her motives for sharing her story.

She said the bottom line is that she sensed a threat and wanted to share what happened to her because her gut told her those men in the store were up to no good.

She said the store told her they will review the security footage and get back to her.

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