Texas Mom's Paranoid Rant Spawns Viral Sex-Trafficking Rumor
"I've heard this is happening at Target, Walmart & Kmart; often in the mornings/before lunch."
In a Facebook status shared by more than 139,000 people, Texas mom Amanda Cropsey Florczykowski tells of a harrowing run-in with child sex traffickers at an unnamed store in Longview. Florczykowski is "convinced" that her two-year-old daughter was the target of a brazen ring of traffickers who literally pluck children out of their mothers' arms in checkout lines. Luckily, with her wits and the Lord at her side, Florcyzkowski was able to thwart the nefarious gang, retrieve her child, and use the experience as a warning to others.
The entire paranoid fantasy really has to be read to be believed, so I'll paste the whole thing below. But first, let's jump ahead to the truth of this encounter: Snopes contacted Longview, Texas, police about the claim yesterday. "They told us that the department reviewed surveillance video and that the interaction in question lasted approximately 'two seconds,'" Kim LaCapria writes.
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…
This isn't the first time a "strange encounter" in a chain-store checkout line has spurred rumors of roving, calculating criminals intent on abducting women and children in public. Last spring, for instance, an Oklahoma woman was convinced that she'd been the target of intended abduction at her local Hobby Lobby craft store. And like with previous stranger-danger panics, people have projected onto the evildoers a specific intent relevant to the time: sex trafficking. LaCapria points out a few more examples:
in June , Twitter users warned others of sex slavery rings targeting college kids during summer job interviews … 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 meancing 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.
After a relatively active period over last spring and summer, LaCapria notes, sex-trafficking panics "went dormant" until now.
Interestingly, this corresponds to the time period during and directly after the passage of the federal Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which had lurid stories about human trafficking frequently making mainstream news, and an onslaught of January 2016 coverage and public-awareness efforts across the country for "Human Trafficking Awareness Month."
But back to Florczykowski's story. The Longview Police Department responded in a Facebook post that both dismissed her claims that "sex traffickers" like this were common and encouraged 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," police continued. Of course, they may also waste everyone's time with baseless suspicion rooted in the moral panic of the moment. Which brings us to Florczykowski's original post:
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."
(LPD have been contacted with this report.)