When walking through Ikea with her children, Southern California mom, Diandra Toyos noticed two men who seemed to be following her around. Diandra was casually looking at the sofa section when she became aware that she was being watched.
Wherever she and the children went, two men seemed to be right there near her. Finally, in an attempt to find out what the men were up to, Diandra and her children sat down on one of the couches. To her horror, the men sat down on the couch opposite her, and did not move.
As soon as she spotted a store assistant, Diandra jumped up, grabbed her kids and ran to the assistant to ask for help. It was then that the men disappeared. Diandra was left shaken and nervous. She explained to store security that she had had a ‘gut feeling’ that something was not right with the situation. The very fact that they left right away was an indication that they were up to something.
The security staff at Ikea told Diandra that they would be reviewing footage of store to see if they could spot anything, but it seems they did not get back to Diandra.
Diandra posted on her social media platform that she thought they were human traffickers.
Diandra has warned other parents to be extra vigilant when out with their kids Diandra even believes she may have lost one of her kids had she been distracted that day.
It was through her post that Covina police became aware of her claim and questioned Diandra about the incident.
Dr Kimberley Mehlman- Orozco, a human trafficking expert says that this is not the way human traffickers work as they spend years grooming a person, before pouncing. Although it was possible, it was unlikely that this was the intention of the men. Of over 2,000 interviews with human traffickers and victims, she had never been told of any attempting to kidnap a child in a public place.
“Anything is possible,” Mehlman-Orozco said. “It’s just highly improbable.”
“These types of stories perpetuate misinformation, which leads to people being misinformed about how human trafficking happens in real life,” she said. “It’s not like a Hollywood movie. People aren’t coming up and kidnapping victims like in the movie ‘Taken.’”
“It’s not happening overnight or as some people have described ‘in a matter of seconds or minutes,’” she said. “I’ve seen them take as long as a year or two years before they lure their victim away. It’s a long-term process.”
Human traffickers spend lots of time selecting a victim, and these are normally homeless people, or people from social media sites, who the trafficker will tempt with false promises, and deception. It is a very long term plan to get to know the victim, sometimes taking years.
“They build a trust with their victims to make it seem like they’re consenting participants,” Mehlman-Orozco explained. “They very much behave like a co-conspirator.”
Diandra says that she is by no means an expert on human trafficking, and that she reacted purely because she did not feel comfortable with the situation in the store. Diandra wanted her post to serve as a warning to other parents about the safety of their children in busy places. The experience shook her up and made her aware of how vulnerable children are.
“In my initial post, I said that’s what it felt like was happening to us,” Toyos said. “But I’m not an expert (nor do I claim to be).”
“I never claimed to know exactly what was going on, just that they were clearly watching and targeting my children for something,” she said. “I simply wanted to share an experience that shook me and reminded me to be aware and watch my children. I hoped by sharing it, my friends and family would do the same.”
Source: CBS News