Calgary Police are responding to rumours that were circulating on local social media groups regarding alleged incidents of attempted child trafficking that took place at both Cross Iron Mills Mall, just South of Airdrie and Market Mall in Calgary.

CPS said that after speaking to the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams (ALERT) trafficking team, law enforcement was unaware of the incidents and that no such event was reported to police. 

The initial social media posts appear to be screenshots of individuals detailing almost identical accounts of young children going into the mall bathrooms by themselves and after some time parents going to look for them only to discover another unknown individual in the bathroom stall with the child, attempting to cut their hair. Both accounts alleged that the children had been potentially drugged. One account claims that the unknown assailant was a woman, while the other gives no detail as to the suspect.

One of the screenshotted posts claimed that police were notified of the Market Mall incident, but they did not want to release information to the public because it may, 'ruin the investigation'. It is unclear where these posts originated from.

CPS said that it encourages mindful sharing of information by citizens on social media platforms to ensure it is factual, underlining there is a concern with social media posts spreading misinformation and causing unnecessary alarm.  

Some social media commentators noted that a version of this story has been circulating online in both Canada and the United States for years. An almost identical story had been circulated in Oshawa, Ontario in 2022, alleging that a 12-year-old had also been drugged and nearly kidnapped in a bathroom stall. That story also included details of the child's hair being cut. Oshawa Police told local media outlets they never received a report of such an incident occurring and local mall managers also categorically stated there was no evidence such an event took place.

Another identical story cropped up in 2010 about an alleged attempted kidnapping in a Toledo, Ohio Mall. That allegation followed the same narrative, claiming that a 14-year-old had gone into a bathroom without parental supervision and was also allegedly drugged, their hair cut off, and almost kidnapped. Police said that the incident was investigated and found to have been unfounded.

"People should be aware of their surroundings and personal safety as always. If you see something, say something," a CPS spokesperson wrote in an email. "Social media is an important tool when it comes to sharing information, especially information that is intended to keep citizens safe."

The Calgary Police Service encourages citizens to use official channels to report any criminal activity using the non-emergency number 403-266-1234 or by calling 9-1-1 for a crime in progress or if you or someone is in immediate danger. Certain crimes can also be reported to the CPS online.

Statistics from the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains (NCMPUR) show that in 2018, in the entire country, there were 27 cases of abductions of children by strangers.

Airdrie RCMP was not available for comment at the time of publication. 

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