I was asked about a particular “warning” being circulated by email, forwarded over and over again, with a very simple question: Are these legitimate gang/criminal ploys or are they urban myths?
beginning of “warning” message:
Please read, this is important : from Bernadette McCann House for Women
This came from Pembroke, Ontario but applies to anyone anywhere!
Please read, this is important
On the way to Cornwall, Ontario, driving on Vincent Massey Drive, on Thursday morning, I saw an infant car seat on the side of the road with a blanket draped over it. I did not stop, even though I had all kinds of thoughts running through my head. But when I got to my destination, I called the Cornwall PD and they were going to check it out. This is what I was told…
“Several things to be aware of .. gangs and thieves, are now plotting different ways to get a person to “stop” their vehicle. “There is a gang initiation reported by police departments that gangs are placing a car seat by the road…with a fake baby in it…waiting for a woman, of course, to stop and check on the baby. Note that the location of this car seat will usually be beside a wooded or grassy (field) area …and the person – woman – will be dragged into the woods- beaten and raped- usually left for dead. DO NOT STOP . DIAL 9-1-1 AND REPORT WHAT YOU SAW.
“IF YOU ARE DRIVING AT NIGHT AND EGGS ARE THROWN AT YOUR WINDSHIELD. DO NOT OPERATE THE WIPER AND DO NOT SPRAY ANY WATER BECAUSE EGGS MIXED WITH WATER BECOME MILKY AND BLOCK YOUR VISION UP TO 92.5% YOU ARE THEN FORCED TO STOP BESIDE THE ROAD AND BECOME A VICTIM OF THIEVES. THIS IS A NEW TECHNIQUE USED BY GANGS. PLEASE INFORM YOUR FRIENDS AND RELATIVES. THESE ARE DESPERATE TIMES AND THESE UNSAVORY INDIVIDUALS WILL TAKE DESPERATE MEASURES TO GET WHAT THEY WANT.”
Please talk to your loved ones about this. This is a new tactic used and I would hate for anyone to fall victim to this kind of crime.
Please be safe
end of “warning” message
As I was reading this the first thing I thought was, “Who is going to think an infant child seat left at the side of the road might have a child in it?” Never mind the fact the seat is at the side of the road in an isolated area (which usually means unlit), so who’s even going to see it while driving past in the dark? Followed by questioning the point behind the “fake baby” under the blanket might be (after all, by the time you discover it you’re already out of the car), so, the validity of the lure seemed suspect right off the bat.
Next, the one about the eggs: I’ve mixed eggs with water on an occasion or two, and with milk (far thicker) on even more occasions. I have never come across a mixture that would ensure visibility was hampered if it was scraped across a windshield by a well-functioning wiper blade, especially to that astoundingly precise 92.5%.
Finally, before checking with Snopes, I went to the link provided at the end of the message. Here’s a quote from the Bernadette McCann House for Women, Inc. homepage:
“WARNING EMAIL: In the past several weeks, an email has been circulating which identifies Bernadette McCann House for Women Inc. as the original sender.(Email describes woman on side of road with baby in car seat, also discusses eggs on windshield.) Sadly, as a result of our name appearing on the email, we have received a number of calls regarding this issue.
“This email is NOT LEGITIMATE in any way, and we wish to apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.”
Before the days of email, call-display, *69 and a whole host of other things we take for granted nowadays, I remember a popular “prank” phone-call being made that went something along the lines of “Hi, Mrs. Cleaver? I’m a friend of Wally’s, and he’s been hit by a car/beaten up and you need to get to the hospital and take care of him RIGHT NOW!” When I’ve told people about this, the usual response is, “Right, because now they’ve got someone out of the house and can go rob them!” While that may have happened, it wasn’t something I’d ever heard of. In reality, it was usually just for the fun of scaring someone’s mother and exercising power over her, and I think the same thing is true in how many of these email “warnings” get started. Once sent out, they get forwarded by people who don’t give it any more thought than it takes to click “forward,” as well as those who are concerned for our safety, and those who find the warnings entertaining and send them on as a joke or campfire-style scary story.
Some time ago, I was sent a message containing detailed instructions on how to perform CPR on yourself. If you’ve ever taken a CPR course, you know it’s performed on dead people, so self-CPR should sound peculiar to you right away. The premise was that if the reader ever found himself driving down the road and was overcome with chest pains, the techniques described could save his life. The message contained links to the American Heart Association website to lend an air of credibility, but a visit to the site revealed a note from the AHA distancing themselves from these fake and potentially harmful messages. The message I received had been forwarded dozens of times, as evidenced by all the quote level/indentation that comes with forwarding; nobody had bothered to verify the information. What’s the harm? Well, in that particular case, the technique had no merit in a cardiac event outside of a clinical environment and even then was for a very specific situation, and relying on the bogus technique one might fail to do things that could actually save a life.
Similar is true of these warnings, in that the reader believes danger lurks around every corner in the form of an infant car seat, eggs thrown at the windshield, ether in perfume bottles or killers driving without headlights. The result is a hyper vigilance on one level, and a lack of awareness on the other. Already distracted by work, school, family, financial concerns, social management & extracurricular activities, and myriad other things, this incredibly detailed information (92.5%?) takes the place of legitimate precautionary measures that would be easier to apply in order to identify and avoid numerous real threats. Believing in the brilliant criminal who will go to painstaking means to trick you can leave you unprepared for the person who simply walks up, grabs you and begins punching you while you try to figure out what’s going on, why it’s happening, and why your hands aren’t in front of your face stopping this barrage. Imagine for a moment that if the right advice had been sent in an email rather than a false alert, how many awful and lingering assaults could have been avoided.
Certainly there are people who would seek to circumvent our awareness and overwhelm our defences, and doing so is much easier in an increasingly distracted society. In most cases it requires no particular brilliance on the part of the criminal, and believing it does may leave us open to the simplest of tactics. Real street-crime tends to happen in simple ways that a very basic awareness can reveal and help guard against. It isn’t rocket science, but it does take a certain amount of education, some practice, and trust of self.
Other potential damages caused by these “warnings” are a little more sinister. For starters, many of these emails caution women to stay close to men, advise men to watch out for “their” women, and perpetuate the notion that a woman is less than capable of defending herself. Keep in mind that self-defence isn’t about punching and kicking, or counter-violence, so much as it’s about being smart and predicting and avoiding violent encounters. Counter-violence may factor into it, and there are ways to ensure we are capable of it should the need arise, but surely anyone can learn to avoid a situation where someone can get hurt without having to rely on the men-folk! Many of these so-called warnings also reference specific areas of a city, giving the impression we are unsafe there and reinforcing the misconception that we are safer in the “better” parts of the city when the truth is no neighbourhood is immune to crime and violence. The crimes discussed are usually portrayed as occurring much more frequently than in real life, and the male perpetrators are largely portrayed as being of non-Caucasian descent, fuelling racial prejudice and encouraging an out-of-hand distrust of men.
Our goal in setting stages of alert isn’t just so we can say, “Stage Green = Relaxed, Stage Amber = Increased Awareness, Stage Red = FIGHT! And now we know what stage we have to be in so we can hit someone.” Our goal in identifying the stages is so that we can exercise a certain amount of control over them. There are those who would say we should “never” be in Stage Green, that stage where we don’t have to think about our security. What a world that would be if we could never let our guard down! We should be looking to create and nurture that safety zone where we can let our guard down and relax, otherwise we risk tiring ourselves out and existing in that half-cocked, hyper-vigilant state that can lead to emotional, psychological and even physical issues. If you’ve ever been through the stages (and even more likely if you’ve been through them multiple times) you know it isn’t exactly like traffic lights where it’s either green or amber, rather there’s an in-between “gramber” stage. The same is true of amber to red, which we can call “ramber.” It bears mention that regardless of the ease/speed with which we go from green to red, dialing backward from a heightened alert stage toward green can be difficult and slow. So this hyper-vigilance caused by hearing over and over again that “they” are out to get me and they’re employing sophisticated lures to succeed means I am in a gramber, amber, ramber or even red stage more often than necessary, which can mean my ability to dial back to green is strained. This can result in bad moods, digestive issues, snapping at the clerk at the supermarket, feeling “pressured” while driving (road rage or inattentiveness behind the wheel), an inability to relax with friends or properly enjoy time off, a withdrawal from social activities in order to avoid the “risk” discussed in these bogus messages, or a plethora of other issues that may not be easily traced to our fraudulently induced state of heightened awareness. “Uncomfortable” isn’t a good enough word to describe a state that can have lasting health effects.
So the next time you get one of these messages, what should you do? I suggest you check it out on Snopes and deliver the well-intentioned sender a link to this page.