Tuesday, January 12, 2010

False claims a significant problem in one county: 34 cases last year 'just a fraction' of cases that go unprosecuted

A companion to a previous story:

False Reports Plague Police

Investigators Waste Valuable Time On Bogus Crimes

Wasting time investigating false police reports has become a serious problem for Upstate law enforcement.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Office is hoping awareness of the serious penalties for false reporting as well as the cost to the public will help cut down on bogus reports.

Greenville sheriff's Lt. Shea Smith said during 2009, there were 34 cases involving false police reports in the county, leading to the arrests of 29 people.

Smith said that number represents just a fraction of the false reports that go unprosecuted due to a lack of evidence.

In 2009, the investigation into false reports in Greenville County took about 529 man-hours and cost nearly $9,000.

Smith said that false reports are made for a variety of reasons; from wanting attention, to covering up crimes, to insurance fraud.

He also said the investigation of false reports takes time away from dealing with the cases of legitimate victims. He also stressed that those who file false police reports can face serious penalties.

For adults, the sentence varies in accordance with the crime reported. The penalty for false reporting of a misdemeanor is up to 30 days in prison and $500 fine. For the false report of a felony, such as rape, the penalty can be up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.

The penalty for a juvenile convicted of filing a false report varies at the discretion of a family court judge.

Smith said a conviction for false reporting can also affect an individual's ability to get a job, buy a gun or vote.

Psychiatrist Addresses Common Cause

One recent report was made by a Mauldin teenager who claimed to have been attacked in a park on New Year's Day, according to police.

After the 16-year-old's report, WYFF News 4 talked to psychiatrist Gretchen Enright to try to understand why the teen might have made the false report.

Enright said the quest for attention is common among individuals who lie about being the victim of a crime.

"They see in the media and in movies and on television shows that victims get a lot of nurturance and protection and care from individuals," Enright said. "They may feel they're not getting those needs met."

She said they may also be trying to deflect attention from other problems.

"They may be trying to avoid some other aspects of their life and they may feel that this is the only way that they can get out of those other sorts of responsibilities," Enright said.

Enright said some of these individuals may not comprehend the consequences of crying wolf to law enforcement.

"Young people don't necessarily understand the seriousness of the consequences of when they're telling a lie," said Enright.

Link: http://www.wyff4.com/news/22217187/detail.html