By Robin Fornoff
CMI PROJECTS EDITOR
Clovis police say a warning about a man trying to abduct area children is a Facebook hoax.
The report apparently duped police at Eastern New Mexico University and campus security at Clovis Community College.
On Thursday, CCC Director of Campus Security Freddie Salazar passed along an email received from ENMU police and warning of “individual(s) of potential foreign decent (sic) attempting to sell children’s books … attempting to obtain information about children … for the purpose of human trafficking or abduction.”
It’s a story that’s making the rounds on social media — Facebook folklore — and Clovis Police Capt. Patrick Whitney said it just isn’t true. He’s joined by Portales Police Chief Doug Jones.
In a city of Clovis Facebook posting, Whitney writes, “There has been information being put out on Facebook posts around the Clovis area to be aware of a foreign man from ‘Russia’ driving a silver car going door to door selling magazines that is supposedly ‘casing’ homes for children to steal away to a human trafficking slavetrade overseas.”
Whitney said police contacted a man who “is actually from Finland and is legally licensed by the city of Clovis as a vendor to conduct door to door sales.
“He has been interviewed and vetted,” Whitney said. “He is not a threat to the community.”
Jones said Portales police also recently received similar reports from concerned citizens.
“We got a call and checked him out,” Jones said. “He has no wants or warrants. This guy’s legit. He’s selling books. He has a permit from the city to sell door to door.
“Believe me,” said Jones, “if we had heard or found anything about him trying to kidnap children, he …would have been jailed or at least under investigation.”
Whitney and Jones asked anyone encountering the salesman not to call police or 911.
“You can politely turn him away if you are not interested in purchasing magazines,” Whitney said. “Again, this issue was started by a Facebook hoax, please do not call the police department to report this man.”
At CCC, Salazar said officials are preparing to send a new email to staff and students to fix the error. Salazar said he passed the warning along because it came directly from ENMU police and he believed it to be true.
“These days,” said Salazar, “you have to not take chances.”
ENMU Police Chief Brad Mauldin said he did send out the email Thursday that Salazar received, but issued a new one Friday morning that notes local law enforcement has checked out the individuals and they have valid solicitation permits.
Mauldin said he sent the initial email to ENMU students, faculty and staff “to let them know there was concern and this was something we were looking into.” He said the latest email was issued after learning the solicitors were legitimate.
Mauldin said ENMU police are still “encouraging the campus community to report any and all” activities of a suspicious nature.