Authorities warn of ‘unnecessary hysteria’ regarding posts of suspected mall stalkers

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“I do feel it’s important to share that information, share [about] these spots where activity tends to be higher,” said Kara Becker, a concerned resident.

In the last several weeks, Rockford community Facebook pages have seen an influx of posts warning residents of suspicious individuals targeting young people in public shopping centers, allegedly with the intent of doing them harm.

“I saw a bunch of posts like that, recently,” said resident Ella Haugen. “So, I’ve been just kind of looking at them all.”

In Rockford, more than 20 people we spoke with today said they had seen a post about young girls who felt like they were being followed while shopping at Forest Plaza on East State Street.

Many who shared the story say it was shared by someone whom they see as a trusted source.

“Some of the people that I know, they just seem more credible, so I share those ones, because it seems like something to be concerned about,” Haugen said.

In a statement, Rockford Police Lieutenant Kurt Whisenand said that, while the intention behind sharing is to let neighbors know what’s going on in the area, it’s important to use discretion when sharing to avoid “unnecessary hysteria when false information is spread.”

“I would still share, but with caution, knowing that the likelihood of that happening to either I, or somebody I know, is fairly low,” Becker said. “However, where we live isn’t always the safest place.”

“I think it makes people more scared than they need to be,” Haugen said. “I think people should be cautious, but you can’t live your life in fear.”

Police are not discouraging people from reporting suspicious behavior, but advice them to use their best judgment to determine if the information is coming from a credible, reliable source before sharing Facebook posts about alleged incidents.

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