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Butler Walmart parking lot safe, says police chief

October 8, 2021 News Extra

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Every few months, pictures and reports of nefarious human traffickers using slick methods to target Walmart shoppers crop up on social media.

The latest posts claim pieces of yellow tape are being placed on cars in the Walmart parking lot at Butler Crossing to alert traffickers of potential victims.

Chief John Hays of the Butler Township Police said his officers have not been called to any potential human trafficking complaints at the store or elsewhere.

“Based on the human trafficking information I've seen, this is not the way that it's done,” Hays said.

He said such reports appear and reappear on Facebook every few months, causing a minor panic among shoppers.

“I've gotten calls on things like this on Facebook in the past,” Hays said. “There's nothing to it.”

Another such post reported that those who come out of the store and find a handkerchief hanging on their sideview mirror have been targeted by traffickers.

“I'm not aware of that problem in Butler County,” Hays said.

The posts always come with passionate replies from those reading them. Some are frightened shoppers while others refute the claims.

Postings also proclaim Butler County and surrounding areas a hotbed of human trafficking.

“We have not had any kidnapping victims or missing persons reported that would go hand-in-hand with this,” Hays said.

He said the police department does occasionally respond to reports of suspicious individuals at Walmart.

“Half the time it's legitimate and half the time the caller just didn't like the way a person looked,” Hays said. “But if we get a call, we respond to it.”

Hays deemed Walmart a safe place for families to do their shopping.

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Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs

Paula Grubbs is a Butler County native who has been with the Butler and Cranberry Eagle newspapers since June 2000. Grubbs has covered the Mars School District and Middlesex Township for over 20 years with the Eagle and her former employer, the Cranberry Journal. She also covers Adams Township, Evans City and Mars in addition to events and incidents throughout Southwestern Butler County as assigned. Grubbs has taken the lead at the Cranberry Eagle in reporting on shale gas development, which has been a hotly debated topic in the recent past, both locally and nationally. A 1979 graduate of Butler Senior High School and a 1994 graduate of Geneva College, Grubbs has won a Golden Quill and four Keystone state awards, plus an award from the Society of Professional Journalists. Grubbs enjoys following the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, volunteers with the Connoquenessing Creek Cleanup each summer, and loves spending time outdoors and bird watching at her Penn Township home. Grubbs is the daughter of James R. Davis Sr., of Center Township, and the late Maxine Davis. She has two grown children, Jacqueline and Thomas.