A story — or, really, the tagline on that story — by Mike Straw brought some bristling feedback. “Unfair!” But was it? Let’s start with the story, from the 18 November 2012 issue:
Deborah Fashakin, 33, told police she was pumping gas in Seat Pleasant, Md., when someone jumped into her car and drove away. The real problem: her three children aged 1, 4, and 5, were inside. Prince George’s County police issued an Amber Alert and called in every detective available, suspending what they call “proactive” activities, such as surveillance, to focus on the search. Police were able to locate the stolen car, but the children weren’t inside. Fashakin later allegedly confessed that she had made up the part about her children “because she wanted an enhanced police response to finding her stolen car,” police spokeswoman Julie Parker said. Fashakin was charged with making a false statement and held on $5,000 bond. “This response cost tens of thousands of dollars and pulled resources that otherwise could have been spent serving the citizens of Prince George’s County,” Parker said. “We took this seriously. We had to.” (MS/Washington Post) …Which is worse: the fact that this woman lied about her children, or the fact that that’s the only way it seems they would take an auto theft seriously?
The Comments Came Swiftly
Hi! Just had to comment that I think the tag line for this story is a bit unfair — just because she wanted an “enhanced police response” doesn’t mean the police wouldn’t have taken the theft seriously without thinking her children had been kidnapped. She may have assumed they wouldn’t help otherwise…but her judgment really isn’t looking too impressive! I understand the tag line is relating to Parker’s quote at the end, but there’s a big difference between taking a car theft seriously and taking a kidnapping seriously. —Angela, Ohio
I replied: “I’m not sure you’re reading the tag correctly.” Angela responded:
My point was that there’s nothing in the story to indicate that the police would NOT have taken the theft seriously without her lying about her children being in the car. So to say that her lying about it was the only way they would take it seriously seems unfair to the police department.
My guess: Angela has never had a car stolen. See next comment.
My van was stolen from my driveway. Thief left behind a metal baseball bat (I assume to be used on me if he were caught on my property?) Sheriff dept. (Sacramento Co., CA.) was not interested in checking it for prints. I found the van two miles away in a ditch. Muddy tracks from van led directly across road, through a locked gate and from muddy vineyard. CHP did not want to look for prints (only do that for ‘serious’ crimes), didn’t question property owner of locked gate, basically had no interest in investigating to catch criminal.
Son’s pickup broken into in Stockton (bankrupt) CA. Police wouldn’t come, only wanted it to be reported online.
And now probation and parole violators will no longer be returned to jail. —Frank, California
Frank is three times farther from Sacramento as Seat Pleasant is from Washington D.C.
While it may be true, I don’t see any evidence presented that the police would treat an auto theft less seriously than they should. Therefore, I have to question whether your comment is apt. From the quoted material, I think the police responded appropriately. —Jeremy, Virginia
Jeremy also lives in a small town.
My own experience wasn’t a stolen car, but a car burglary: my car was broken into in San Francisco and hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff was stolen. Yeah, I was dumb for having it in there, but the cops absolutely wouldn’t come; I had to do a mail-in report — and this was 1978!
The bottom line is, police interest in crime is very different in big cities than in small towns!
So the question is, do you think Mike was unfair with his tag on the story? Why or why not?
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