Authorities have tried to allay public fears that there may be a syndicate trying to kidnap children at Gateway shopping mall.
This emerged after a post circulated on Facebook claiming that a roadblock on the M4 on Monday afternoon was set up to warn people to avoid shopping malls because of the alleged syndicate.
The post claimed that there were three groups of “Middle Eastern males” in Gateway on Sunday trying to “distract young girls”.
Gateway dismissed the “unsubstantiated” social media posts on Monday. Metro police Monday rubbished the idea that the roadblock was to turn the public away from shopping malls.
The SAPS said they were not investigating such a case.
The post that circulated on Monday appeared to have been directly copy-pasted in each instance.
It said the syndicate was “trying to catch” children, and implored people to “spread the word”.
“This is not a joke please. Pass on to family and friends (SIC).”
Metro police spokesman Superintendent Sbonelo Mchunu said the roadblocks on the M4 on Monday were “ordinary, for checking outstanding warrants”.
Gateway marketing manager Michelle Shelley said: “Gateway has had no such incidents reported to the security control room or any members of staff. We encourage people to check the validity of messages they receive on social media to avoid unnecessary panic.”
SAPS spokeswoman Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said they were unaware of claims of a syndicate. “Parents should not hesitate to inform the police if they witness suspicious acts,” she said.
The same details of the warning appeared to have been shared on social media previously.
A search on Facebook revealed a very similar post, which appeared on December 5 on the group Durban Crime * All. “Hi everyone – my sister has just been stopped on the M4. There is major road blocks. Police told her to please not go near any shopping centers with the children as there is a syndicate that is trying to kidnap children (SIC).”
It continued: “This message is direct from me not copied and pasted.”
Carol van Tonder, an SAPS reservist, posted in a Durban North crime group on November 27 that posts about children being kidnapped at Gateway were a hoax.
“Every year this time, someone tries to create panic for their own sick reasons.”
The SAPS, meanwhile, advised parents in malls to be vigilant.
“(Parents) should know where their children are playing, with whom and with what, as some kids are easily attracted to strangers.
“Parents are also urged to ensure that they avoid leaving their children on trolleys when shopping, and they (children) must always be in their sight.”