NewsRegion South PinellasSt Petersburg


Suspicious 'sex trafficking' reports flooding police departments after woman's viral video

Posted at 8:29 PM, Sep 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 03:32:08-04

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — You can hear and even feel the panic in their voices as a couple starts chasing down a white van in Old Southeast St. Pete.

The video was taken on a cell phone and shared hundreds of times.

"Hey! Go! Go! Go," the woman says before she screams.

St. Petersburg Police said the couple suspected the driver of combing the neighborhood for innocent children, but police found no evidence of that.

"No! Don't chase them in the back, they will kidnap us!" screamed the woman.

The post went viral and panicked a community.

"It's risen to a level of hysteria," said Yolanda Fernandez with the St. Pete Police Department.

Police said the video is just one example of many they have received. They've also been flooded with Facebook posts.

"In the last week it is just exploded," said Fernandez.

Police say the mass panic escalated following this viral video of a Dunedin woman claiming human traffickers followed her in a grocery store.

So far, 17 million people have viewed it.  

"At this time we have no crimes and we have nothing to indicate there's someone out there looking to kidnap women or children," said Fernandez.

But they do have people like this, trying to take the law into their own hands. And, that's downright dangerous, putting other lives in danger.

"You don't know who is in that vehicle, they might be afraid when they see you following them. They might think you might do them harm and then if there are weapons involved it could just go really bad, really fast," said Fernandez.

But police want to stress: If you see something — say something. They just want to be the ones to handle it.

"If you see something, say something. We want people to know that we are answering those calls and we are aware of those concerns. We want people to be aware of their surroundings we want people to notice suspicious vehicles. Please call us and let the police department investigate. We send an officer out to every single one of those calls. Don't wait to call us when you get home. Try to get a good description, try to get a picture if you can. But please don't chase," said Fernandez.