Did Ontario, California Confirm Kidnappers are Drugging and Abducting Children?
Another viral abduction panic is spreading on Facebook faster than a police warning to ignore it.
The original post was shared by an account with the name Barbie Bazzett Klepper, and it told the story of a purported narrowly avoided abduction at a movie theater. No date for the purported incident was provided, but the original poster claimed to have heard the story from her “dad’s hairdresser.”
In the now-thirdhand account, Klepper claims that the hairdresser’s three daughters left to use the restroom; only two of the girls returned. After the hairdresser went to locate her third, eldest daughter, she was shocked to find the girl leaving with an unknown woman, who allegedly attempted to claim that she was the child’s mother. After the hairdresser contested the claim, the would-be abductor allegedly fled the scene:
I have to share this story with the other local mothers! My dad’s hairdresser went to the movie theater on Mountain Avenue (and the 10 freeway in Ontario) this past weekend. She took her 3 daughters, ages 12, 13 and 14. Before the movie started the three girls went [to] the bathroom together. The two younger ones returned and mom asked where the third waws. They said she was taking too long and they left her in the bathroom. Luckily her mom went to go check on her. She found another woman escorting her daughter who was acting drunk at this point out of the theater. She heard the woman say loudly..”I told you not to drink that!” She rean up to her and started to pull her daughter away when the unknown woman screamed “leave her alone! This is my daughter!” My dads hairdresser said “Oh no she isn’t! This is my daughter!” At the point the unknown woman dropped her daughter and ran! The police were called. When they got there they said that it was part of a sex trafficking group. These people are drugging girls and boys and taking them into white vans waiting for them in parking lots. After talking to her daughter she said she was washing her hands when she felt a prick in her neck. That’s the last thing she remembers. Police confirmed she was drugged with a needle. [The] woman got away. The police told the mom that there was another recent incident at Victoria Gardens similar to this! My dads hairdresser told him to please tell everyone he knows and to get the word out that this is happening. I’m glad I know this now. I will be more aware and cautious now and tell moms I know. Please tell your daughters and sons to stay in groups and watch out for one another. I would have thought a 14 year old would have been fine in the bathroom. I probably wouldn’t have gone to check on her…this scares the crap out of me.
Adding apparent credibility to the story was the detail that police responded to the scene of the attempted abduction. According to Klepper, Ontario police confirmed that the girl had been “drugged with a needle.” Police then volunteered that an unspecified “recent incident,” presumably of abduction or attempted abduction, had just taken place at a mall in nearby Rancho Cucamonga, Victoria Gardens.
Police apparently substantiating the claim elevated its believability from yet another “friend of a friend” tale to a possibly legitimate safety warning (if you ignore the fact that the story remains a classic example of a standard sex trafficking panic urban legend.) However, Rancho Cucamonga police addressed the rumor in an April 26 2019 Facebook post:
The same screenshot seen in the post above was emblazoned with a large, red “false information” stamp with the following message:
The Rancho Cucamonga Police Department would like to remind everyone the following information in regards to incidents in our city, specifically Victoria Gardens, is not true. We have not had any incidences of attempt kidnappings or drugging teens. We appreciate everyone’s concern and desire to keep the community informed, however, we caution against fake posts that are designed to create hysteria. You should ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings and report suspicious activity immediately by calling our 24 hour non-emergency line at 909.941.1488 or 911.
Noting that the original story was “designed to create hysteria,” police confirmed that neither incident referenced in the claim had actually occurred. This particular post seemed to pick up steam by appearing just after fictional parables about Snapchat and Uber-related sex trafficking.
A common fallacy repeated by those who invent such fables for social media attention is that it is better to be safe than sorry, and that the stories are concocted to “spread awareness.” However, no meaningful safety information is ever included alongside the breathless tales of danger, and the prevarication involved is certainly not without its own consequences. Small, local businesses can easily be harmed by the invention of false (but delectably sharable) tales of risk, and as always, the stories successfully eclipse any potential useful information they might contain about public safety.