A couple of weeks ago a Facebook update caught my attention. On the page for our county’s “exchange”, I scrolled through and found that someone was eliciting sympathy for two friends he referred to as “my favorite peeps”.
His story said the couple had been planning to move to North Carolina in order to work on a wind turbine farm. They had sold nearly all their belongings except for some clothing and their car. Their vehicle had been vandalized and broken into at 5:15 AM and the purse containing the money from the sale had been stolen. The posting was accompanied by a photo that showed a shattered auto window.
I typed a short comment expressing my concern for the two victims. I also noted that I wondered why anyone would place a purse, empty or full, on the seat of a car parked on a dark street.
A few minutes later, the poster replied that the two people “are very trusting” are used to sleeping in a crime-free town without locking their doors. They didn’t think anybody would ever break into their car.
The reply didn’t look plausible and set off a mental alarm in my mind. First, I wondered if they were really naïve enough to think they lived in a fairytale perfect small town. Our city has a less than stellar reputation for crime. Furthermore, the couple’s neighborhood is known as a moderately high crime area. There are regular reports of vandalism and burglaries throughout that part of town.
Moments later, I wondered if the individual who posted the photo was trying to convince people to send money to help the couple. The thought also occurred that maybe the post was a set-up for a scam. It’s easy to make up a story and then find a photo of a vandalized vehicle via a Google search. I felt sorry that my suspicions had been aroused. However, the post was on Facebook.
If the supposed incident was indeed the bait to lure people to help financially, it didn’t work. Most of the other comments expressed outrage and advocated violent retribution against the, as of yet, absent criminal(s). There were many other comments that reflected my puzzlement about why anybody would leave a purse in plain sight in an unoccupied vehicle at any time of the day or night. Nobody offered any help besides the usual, bland “thoughts and prayers” Internet response.
Contrary to popular myth, there are no longer any sugar coated little towns where crime does not exist. Most people do not feel secure enough to sleep in a house with the doors unlocked. I wondered if the “victims” had ever seen or heard any of those famous “McGruff the Crime Dog” public service announcements that ask us to “Take a bite out of crime”.
Motor vehicles are broken into and burglarized or stolen every day, even in small towns. There are numerous precautions that people can take to help prevent or lessen the chances of vehicle theft or burglary.
My curiosity as to whether the Facebook posting was legitimate or fraudulent was not spurious. We often hear about people who are ripped off because they were convinced to send money to victims of crime. Most of us know that it is best to contribute aid to legitimate mainstream charities like the Red Cross or a community organization that helps victims.
There are numerous programs to help prevent crime. Most jurisdictions have some form of “neighborhood watch” that works in conjunction with local law enforcement. If there is no formal program, many neighbors report suspicious behavior to the police, anyway.
In any case, their are other programs set up to help prevent crime or to help capture perpetrators. We know there are child safety organizations, babysitting safety tips, identity theft prevention groups, personal protection organizations and many more. In other words, there are long-established ways to prevent crime that do work if they are heeded.
A great place to refresh your knowledge about crime prevention is at this link: http://www.ncpc.org/topics/ .
Be safe and crime-free.