July 22, 2008
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Police in Valdosta say they're wasting time on wild goose chases triggered by bogus e-mails that are scaring the community.
The e-mails detail frightening crimes in the community that never happened. And it's now costing police valuable time and taxpayers money to clear them up.
We obtained a copy of an email forwarded to hundreds of people in Valdosta and Lowndes County.
It says four girls are missing, their cars found on Perimeter Road and Forrest Street.
But these disappearances never happened.
"There was no truth to that. I don't know where it came from," says Commander Brian Childress of the Valdosta police.
Police say this is just one of many false emails that's circulated around the city. "They'll claim people are being attacked, people are being followed," says Commander Eugene Bell of the Valdosta Police Investigation Division.
They often go into great detail and sometimes even give names. Investigators say they scare people who read them.
"None of it is true. I don't know where they are getting the information from but they are causing a panic among some of the people here in the city," Bell says.
And it's an extra burden for police.
"Then I have to contact the people they contacted and let them know, no, we don't have four women missing, there's no serial killer in Valdosta or anything like that," Bell says.
"It causes a tad bit of mass hysteria and then what I've got to do is go up and respond to those things and our members of the department have to go out and respond and do a correction so to speak," Childress adds.
Police hope the community will call before they click.
"Instead of shooting out an email saying this happened, that happened...be careful. Give us a call first and verify that because if there is a legitimate concern for the safety of the citizens, we are going to put that out," Childress says.
And put an end to the rumors.
The last email came as recently as Friday about the body of a pregnant woman being found off Hill Avenue.
Police say the crime rate is low but the emails make it look anything but.
They say they could potentially hurt the city too when looking for new businesses and industries to move in.
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