Mother's scary shopping experience causes concerns over human trafficking
EDMOND, Okla. - A metro mom's post is going viral, but it's just the latest in a series of posts prompting fear of children being kidnapped and forced into human trafficking.
The woman had a frightening incident at an Edmond Target.
She said a little girl tried to lure her daughter away first by asking for candy and then by offering her gum.
Law enforcement officials believe the woman is telling the truth, and they don't deny her fear is real, however they said the person in question was likely not trying to kidnap her child.
"There was this little girl that was following us, and she kept asking my daughter for candy," said Amanda Kalidy, a metro mother. "I was asking her where her mom was."
But, the little girl wouldn't answer.
Kalidy then noticed what she called a "strange" man nearby who she said seemed to be instructing the little girl.
She notified management, but the little girl and the man quickly left the store.
"The manager of the store was telling me what they do is they target places like Target," Kalidy said.
Her fear is that the strange encounter was an attempt to kidnap her daughter and force her into an underground world.
"Human trafficking is a reality in Oklahoma," said Michael Snowden with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics Human Trafficking Division.
Snowden said stories like this are based on real fears, however the concern has no basis.
"We don't generally see people snatching children from their parents or women being abducted from a retail store of some sort," Snowden said. "Human trafficking is much more subtle than that."
He said victims are generally coerced over time, often by someone they know or someone they met online.
"These girls are recruited. They're promised the world and love and those things that are maybe lacking in their lives," Snowden said.
Snowden said, while posts like Amanda's are based on real incidents, real fears, the so-called suspects likely weren't trying to kidnap anyone.
"We would never belittle someone's fear, okay, but diversion is really a frequent tactic when I'm trying to steal your purse, get your car keys," Snowden said.
For Amanda, it's been a wake up call to not let her guard down.
"It's very scary, and you have to stay alert," she said.
Snowden said there are no cases he is aware of in Oklahoma where a child or a mother has been kidnapped from a retail store and forced into human trafficking.
We talked with officials at Target.
They told us they were not aware of the case in question.
They said they do everything they can to ensure their customers are safe in their store.
Snowden said, if a child were to be abducted from anywhere in Oklahoma, an Amber Alert would be issued, and authorities across the state would immediately begin searching for the child.
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