Break the Chain Gangsters in the Back Seat

Created 6/17/2002 (6/20/2002) Urban legends often become more interesting as they circulate. People add "facts," opinions and other information that make it seem legitimate. Then, it passes through the inboxes of some people whose title or employer give the legend more credibility than it deserves.

SAMPLE CHAIN LETTER TEXT

Subject: Fwd: FW: READ THIS - SAFETY!!

Please be careful!!!

This is an Email that I received from an employee at the Ottawa Co. Sheriff's Department. Team Leaders please make sure that all of your line workers are made aware of this too.

Thanks
Bruce

Date: Wed, 5 Jun 2002 06:50:13 -0400

This is good information for us all to be aware of, it's probably a good idea to lock your door whenever you leave the car, whatever you're doing and I'm sure after reading this it will give all cause for thought the next time we're pumping gas.

Last Thursday a Michigan State Police Trooper stopped in at Soccerzone and spoke with the manager. They were trying to warn as many people as possible about a Chicago gang that is operating in Lansing. Youths wanting to be initiated into this gang climb into the back of a woman's car while she is in paying at a gas station. When she drives away, they overtake the car, drive to an isolated area and rape the woman. Please warn your friends and family to lock their doors at gas stations and be very alert when returning to their car.

SOMETHING I FEEL THAT NEEDS TO BE PASSED ALONG. BE AWARE OF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES AT ALL TIMES...THIS IS A TRUE STORY! This actually happened to a friend's niece last week. It was after dark and she stopped to get gas at a convenience store. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her gas. The cashier told her.... "don't pay for your gas yet...walk around the store a while and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police and they're on their way,"

When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He admitted, he was joining a gang and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped.

According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here originating from Chicago. The scary part of this is that because the guy didn't have a weapon on him the police could only charge him with trespassing... He's back on the streets and free to try again. Please be aware of what's going on around you, ladies. This could happen to anyone. Please forward this on to anyone you care about!

Lisa M. Watts
State Affairs Division
Michigan Attorney General
[Contact Information Deleted]

END CHAIN LETTER TEXT

According to a spokesman for the Michigan State Police Criminal intelligence unit, this is an old urban legend.

"The Michigan State Police Criminal Intelligence Unit is unaware of any such event or warning being spread by members of this department. The story you relate is indeed an old "Urban Legend". We have received inquiries from time to time about this same thing and have done our best to put a stop to them."

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It has been updated and filtered through e-mail accounts of individuals whose identities lend a sense of false authority and validity. A spokesperson for the Michigan Attorney General admitted that their office became associated with this hoax through a breach of protocol and a case of False Attribution Syndrome.

"This e-mail actually made its rounds almost two years ago. At that time, we checked it out and discovered that it was a hoax. Our staff is advised not to forward these types of e-mails to others. Unfortunately in this case, one staff member had already passed it along."

This warning fits the Urban Legend mold perfectly. It warns of a crime that is bizarre and frightening, yet believable. It then illustrates the threat with a "true story" of an incident in which a woman (it's always a woman) was narrowly saved from a fate worse than death. Note that the letter offers no evidence that the crime it warns against has ever actually been committed - the would-be victim is always saved by an observant third party (almost always a man). The lone female motorist as a victim of gang activity is a popular theme in urban legend and tales of the evil stow-away date as far back as the 1950's.

However, the advice is not necessarily bad. Lt. Gregory Steigenga of the Ottowa County (MI) Sheriff's Office told BreakTheChain.org that, though this crime is not common - as the letter above asserts - it is still a possibility, and motorists (male or female) should be careful:

"Our agency has investigated situations in the past where persons have hidden in unlocked cars and then have assaulted the car owner when they return to their vehicle. We have not had a rash of these types of crime by any means, but, it would be prudent for all of us to secure our vehicles when parked in public areas to allow for maximum safety when we return to our vehicles. We have no specific information relative to any real recent incident of this type however."

It is always a good idea to be cognizant of your surroundings and to lock your vehicle whenever it is unattended. Unfortunately, this nugget of wisdom would not have traveled as far or as long if it weren't connected to this piece of compelling fiction and falsely associated with legitimate law-enforcement agencies. Break this Chain.

What Do You Think?

Category: To Your Health
References: Ankle-Slashing Gang Initiation Not So New (BreakTheChain.org)

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