Sharing danger

Be vigilant but don’t panic and be careful what you share on social media.

This was the plea from Colonel Brenda Muridili of SAPS.

According to a statement from the police’s national office, there had been a spike in video clips depicting alleged child kidnappings.

In one clip, which is circulating on social media, a white car is seen slowing down alongside a child in school uniform. The grainy video, which looks like it was captured by CCTV footage, shows a large man exiting the car and trying to grab the child. The child dashes into a nearby gate and escapes. The car then reverses away.

“The police have, since these postings started going viral, been trying to confirm if those depictions did or did not occur in any part of South Africa,” she said. “There is no evidence that suggests firstly, that these incidents happened in South Africa and secondly, that these incidents are actually legitimate.”

Safety and security mayoral committee member, JP Smith, said the viral post was creating fear.

“We are being inundated by many queries and fear created by this issue,” he said.

Colonel Muridili said no incidents matching the videos had been reported to police.

“One would have expected at least a family would have come forward to publicly confirm at least one of those videos to be legitimate. Secondly, the police will never know that these incidents really happened if they are not officially reported. Therefore the only reasonable conclusion we can draw from this is that these videos are hoaxes,” she said.

But she cautioned that this did not mean that parents should let their guard down.

“It is a reality that children do go missing therefore, parents and guardians are urged to exercise vigilant at all times.”

Several other posts about alleged kidnappings and the illegal photographing of children by strangers are also circulating on social media.

In one post, which is sometimes depicted on school letterheads, parents are cautioned that strangers were seen taking photos of children outside schools.

Another post, which long ago was confirmed as a hoax, has also resurfaced. In the post, photos of two young men are captioned: “These guys apparently steal kids and sell them for R5 000.”

Colonel Muridili cautioned: “We are appealing to social media users to act responsibly and verify information before posting and sharing, as such postings do nothing more than cause unnecessary panic and paranoia among our communities.”

She also urged residents to report suspicious incidents to police.

“An urgent appeal is made to people in instances where they suspect a crime may have been committed or anything suspicious has occurred to contact the police first to verify such information.

You can call the police’s Crime Stop number, 08600 10111.