Children risk sparking large-scale police searches if they take part in an internet challenge which sees them hide in department stores overnight, officers have warned.
The so-called 24 Hour Challenge encourages members of the public to hide and build forts in large stores and warehouses overnight, before sneaking out the following morning.
In one reported case, Abid Mirza of Sheffield said he went through a ‘very rough time’ when his 11-year-old son Kaden allegedly spent the night in an Ikea store.
Detective Inspector Anna Sedgwick of South Yorkshire Police said the risks and harm that could be caused are ‘by no means humorous and could be catastrophic’.
She added: ‘Warehouses and shopping departments contain large quantities of heavy stock and items that could easily fall and crush someone if they are moved incorrectly, or used to build makeshift forts.
‘As well as the safety risk, children often do this without the knowledge of their parents, which could lead to large-scale searches or even cause them to be reported as missing.
‘This not only causes fear and worry for parents, friends, family and the local community but can also be a waste of valuable police time, which may be needed to respond to a life or death situation.’
She added the force is working with schools to raise awareness of the ‘craze’.