UPDATE: NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES: Fact-checking Facebook

UPDATE: News 8 called the Onalaska Police Department and they confirmed they had one report filed of a male allegedly following a female into a retail store. The incident was investigated and Onalaska Police say they did not find any evidence to support what was filed in the report. They say the male was not doing anything other than shopping.

In the age of social media, information spreads faster than we can think.

With a simple click of a button, you can be the person who either shares facts or fiction.

You may have seen posts circulating on Facebook, people in La Crosse saying they’re being followed and wanted for sex trafficking. Many of the posts include Latino or Hispanic men as the description.

News 8 asked La Crosse police if reports on any of those incidents have been filed to their department.

“We haven’t had any reports of anybody being abducted, anybody being kidnapped, we’ve had no reports at this time that leads us to believe any of the suspicious activity would be surrounding sex trafficking,” said Lieutenant Averie Schott with the La Crosse Police Department.

One status in particular from Tuesday names Winona, La Crosse, Mankato and Fountain city as having recent reports of sex trafficking. News 8 called each of those community police departments.

Winona, La Crosse and Mankato confirmed they haven’t had any. We’re still waiting to hear back from Fountain City. (Update: On August 9, News 8 did hear back from the Fountain City Police Department and they have not received any reports.)

The La Crosse Police Department felt it was necessary to take to Facebook, to remind people that while these crimes are possible, the Facebook posts could be painting a false picture.

“We have all walks of life here, and I think we need to once again be vigilant but also be vigilant of the fact that we do have a variety of backgrounds that live and work and raise families here as well and we would never want to target one specific population or background,” Schott said.

Vernon County Sheriff John Spears says in cases like this, if you’re not sure if something is true, simply call your local police department. They’re aware not every incident gets reported, but it doesn’t stop them from investigating.

“It’s frustrating because people are using social media to report stuff, sometimes when they should be picking up the phone and notifying their local law enforcement agencies of it or if they have information.”

Sex trafficking is a real problem and it does happen in the area, however police found the recent posts circulating on Facebook may be creating unnecessary fear, because non have been reported to police.

Again, this should in no way discourage people from taking extra steps to be safe at all times.

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