Henrico County’s police chief on Tuesday said authorities have no evidence that human traffickers have targeted the Short Pump area, as some recent social media posts have claimed.

In a statement released to local news media, Col. Humberto I. Cardounel Jr. sought to ease public concern that western Henrico — Short Pump in particular — has been targeted by traffickers seeking to abduct residents and force them into vice-related activities. He noted that multiple social media posts making the rounds have implied that traffickers were at work in the area.

“We have no evidence of this to be true,” the chief said. “We have received one report of a suspicious male asking for help. Furthermore, we do not have any credible information to suggest there have been attempted stranger abductions in Short Pump or elsewhere in Henrico County.”

“Human trafficking does exist, here in Henrico County and across the nation — from the largest cities to the smallest towns,” Cardounel added. “Henrico Police has a team of detectives dedicated to investigating vice-related offenses, including human trafficking. I take these crimes very seriously and have a devoted team of detectives to focus on identifying and rescuing human-trafficking victims, as well as identifying those ultimately responsible for this horrible crime so they can be held accountable.”

The chief said he believes there’s been a heightened awareness nationally on the issue of human trafficking.

“The idea that our residents could be at risk of being abducted naturally sparks fear, especially when the information being spread indicates the threat is in our community,” he said. “However, the information being circulated across social media suggesting people are being targeted for abduction in Henrico County is unsubstantiated.”

The chief emphasized that if the department had any reason to believe people were being targeted for human trafficking, “we would inform the community.”

Cardounel said if anyone believes they have been targeted or otherwise victimized, they should immediately call Henrico police at (804) 501-5000 or 911 in an emergency.

“Social media is not the most efficient method of reporting crime,” he said. “The quickest response to reporting crime or suspicious behavior is by calling Henrico Police, as our social media is not monitored 24/7. We want to identify people involved and resolve the situation quickly.”

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