Social media posts cause concern over human trafficking in Baraboo

Social media posts cause concern over human trafficking in Baraboo

BARABOO, Wis. - The Baraboo Police Department is urging the community to be aware of their surroundings after multiple women took to Facebook to tell their stories of being followed while shopping at Walmart.

Police want to make sure you park in a well-lit area and keep your purse close, but that you also understand what human trafficking is and where it usually happens. 

"We know those things are happening, It's our job as the police to investigate them, but it's everybody's job as a society to realize that these bad things happen, and to make sure that people are paying attention and doing things to reduce their vulnerability," said Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf.  

Schauf said he learned of the community's concern last week on Facebook. A woman had posted that she was followed in Walmart by two well-dressed men in their 30s or 40s. She said she was so scared that she asked an employee to walk her to her car. 

The post, which has since been made private, was shared by many and caught the attention of Schauf. 

Schauf said he is glad people are being aware of their surroundings, but police need to know about it. 

"If you think your safety is truly in jeopardy, you need to contact the police," he said. 

On Monday, another Baraboo woman made a report to police that she was followed through Walmart on Sunday morning. 

"When I talked to the people at Walmart and reported it there, she said they had had multiple complaints of people being followed in the store this weekend," said the woman, who did not want to be named. 

She said she had seen posts from others about similar situations so she was more aware of her surroundings. 

"You just never know about people nowadays. It is terrifying to have kids right now and to worry about them constantly," she said. 

Schauf said as a father, he understands the fear that parents have, but "there's a reality that modern sex trafficking is done through our social media."

He believes the kidnapping of Jayme Closs has caused parents to be more scared of stranger abductions and human trafficking, but these incidents are uncommon and they rarely happen in public places where there are cameras. 

"As tragic and as scary as the entire thing in Barron County is, it's really an anomaly in a lot of ways. To have no real connection and have that abduction is very very odd," Schauf said. 

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