|Gangsters in the Back Seat|
(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.
According to a spokesman for the Michigan State Police Criminal intelligence unit, this is an old urban legend.
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:
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.
Category: To Your Health