My name is Amanda and I'm a Longview, Texas resident. I'm convinced that our two year old daughter was the victim of a potential sex-trafficking scam yesterday.
I got in the check-out line at a local store early afternoon. I took my daughter out of the cart and the couple ahead struck up the typical conversation about how "cute your daughter is" and then asked about her age, repeatedly. I initially was understanding of what I assumed was a cultural barrier, but I quickly became uncomfortable with the woman's body language and close proximity to my cart/kids. I picked my daughter up only to have the woman ask if she could hold her. The woman was so close at this point that my toddler reached her arms around the woman before I could really respond. In an instant her proximity finally changed and she backed away. I grabbed back on to my daughter as the woman was saying, "Say bye to mommy" - what an unusual comment to provoke a child to say. The woman resisted returning her when I physically pulled my daughter from her arms.
Know their conversation began immediately with me and this all took place over only a few moments. After this couple left, I was really shaken up but still noticed the man a few feet away in my peripheral vision, continuing to stand, by himself, with no groceries, in a closed check-out lane. He faced the opposite direction, but was looking over his shoulder at me; glaring would be an understatement. His eyes did not leave my every move and I confidently matched his stare to show I was aware of his presence. I loudly conversed with the cashier about their security staff and the odd couple that seemed predatory.
I'm thankful to Jesus that He alone protected us! I was able to get out and home safely with my family.
I've since researched sex-trafficking and some details were precisely my experience. I want to recount those specifics to create awareness in hopes that you can protect your own children.
-Abductors often work in groups and position themselves throughout the store. Although it wouldn't appear that these 3 individuals were shopping together, I am certain this man and couple were a team.
-This couple were of East Indian descent and the man was white and covered in tattoos - all were mid 30's. Beware no matter the color, appearance, age or sex.
-The couple checked out with 2 items of little value. Something they could easily abandon.
-The woman had alarming proximity to me at times and twice put her hand on my basket. She created one route for me to place my groceries, thus leaving my attention divided between my kids and my task. (I did not place anything on the belt until they left...FYI ???)
-I20 is a prominent sex-trafficking route; Longview included. In fact, the U.S. Department of Justice used the following cities to study sex-trafficking data. Notice the first three.
San Antonio, TX
Fort Worth, TX
Salt Lake City, UT
Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA
Las Vegas, NV
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (U.S. Territory)
-Houston is a popular port where these children are sold overseas
-Abductors often follow you to your car and snatch the willing child they bonded with moments before; all while you put in groceries.
-Abductors can follow you home.
-The cashier remarked that she thought I knew these strangers. Their body language conveyed that to onlookers, which would make an exit convenient.
-I've heard this is happening at Target, Walmart & Kmart; often in the mornings/before lunch. Completely true of my experience, but it could happen anywhere.
-Moms shopping alone with kids are targeted. Also true of my experience.
-Although rumor says blonde, fair girls/teen are targets, I've yet to find that in my research & my daughter doesn't fit that description.
-Additionally, little girls AND boys of any age are targets.
The thought of what could have happened is sickening. I'm just like you; a mom and I hope my experience helps you to be, not fearful, but cautious!
2 Timothy 1:7 "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
On 19 February 2016, a Facebook user published the above status claiming her child was recently the target of at attempted “sex-trafficking scam” in an unnamed store in Longview, Texas. (One commenter claimed it was a Walmart, but the original poster didn’t confirm that.)
Rumors about sex traffickers trawling retail establishments flourished in mid-2015, but went dormant after a relatively active period of novel claims. In May 2015, a Facebook user fronted a similar claim of trafficking rings descending upon an Oklahoma Hobby Lobby store; in June, Twitter users warned others of sex slavery rings targeting college kids during summer job interviews; in that same month, the theme park abduction urban legend resurfaced; then a harrowing tale of heroin-armed purported teenaged assailants working out of the bathroom of a Denton, Texas, Dillards department store circulated across the same channels; a Hickory, North Carolina woman claimed human trafficking rings were menacing the parking lots of Walmarts to locate new victims; and a Long Island Target was briefly cited as the locale of similar kidnappers in August 2015.
Taken at face value, nothing in Amanda from Longview’s account matched with known operating habits of sex or human trafficking rings, and none of what she recalled was specifically enough to raise red flags. The incident didn’t sound unlike many interactions experienced by parents of young children in public.
Police in Longview posted a status update about the claim shortly thereafter, which read:
Suspicious activity was reported to the Longview Police Department over the weekend. The reporting party felt that she had just avoided a potential sex trafficking situation with her two year-old child. An LPD Detective spoke with the mother at great length and she explained the situation that occurred over the weekend. She stated that while in line at the grocery store an unknown couple showed interest in her two year-old daughter. Several things occurred in a matter of a couple of seconds that caused the mother to be alarmed. Her protective instincts kicked in and she removed her child from the situation that was bringing unwanted attention to her child. As of right now this is an isolated event, we have not had any similar reports. We do appreciate this parent coming forward and letting us know about the incident at the local store. We have documented the information and also reviewed the video from the store in order to be able to share that information with other agencies should the need arise.
We would like to encourage parents to be vigilant when it comes to your child’s safety. Be watchful over the contact they have with others. Teach your children about appropriate relationships and to avoid strangers. In addition we would like to remind citizens to report any suspicious activity immediately. When our citizens are observant and they report suspicious activity they may be a key to deter or prevent future criminal offenses from occurring.
We contacted Longview police about the claim on 25 February 2016. They told us that the department reviewed surveillance video and that the interaction in question lasted approximately “two seconds.”
Police were sympathetic to the mother’s fears but said that the incident was inconsistent with genuine reports of labor or sex trafficking. The clip was passed on to state law enforcement for further review, but police in Longview did not indicate parents need worry about “stranger danger” in the area (at least, not more than usual). The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has a FAQ about human trafficking that provides useful information on the problem and who is at risk.
We attempted to contact the original author of the post to find out more about the incident but have not yet received a response.