Police work wasted, community unnerved by false reports
AN unusual string of shooting incidents
Prosecutors are considering taking action against a teenager who recanted a report of a drive-by shooting.
put Oahu residents on edge as it seemed a climate of increased lawlessness had beset the island. While it came as a relief that the last one was fabricated
, the report of a drive-by shooting still contributed to an unsettled mood that will take time to recede.
Law enforcement officials have yet to decide whether the 16-year-old boy who made up the story will be prosecuted for filing a false report along with a firearms violation. No charges have been filed in another recent sham incident in which a woman allegedly lied when she accused a man of raping her.
Police rarely press prosecutors to charge people who make bogus crime reports, but that could change because of the recent events. Police invest much time and energy into hunting down suspects to prevent harm to others. And falsely accusing someone of a crime is despicable.
Moreover, police walk a fine line when issuing a CrimeStoppers alert. Asking for the community's help might heighten fear, but police also want people to be on guard. And when too many alerts turn out to be fiction, the public could tune out the messages.
The fake drive-by shooting had been preceded by two alarming incidents that ended in the deaths of two men. On May 14, gunfire terrified a Kaneohe suburb when a 27-year-old man was shot 16 times on a city street as he fled from his captors, who had locked him in a car trunk. Last Saturday, a 30-year-old man was fatally shot after he returned home to find a fight in progress between his relatives and a group partying at a neighbor's.
The teenager's account of how his companion was critically wounded added to the public's distress. The boy painted an ominous picture of a gunman shooting for no apparent reason from a black car with tinted windows as it was driven past a public library late at night.
But police thought the report didn't ring true. Detective Gary Lahens told the Star-Bulletin's Laurie Au that few shootings in Hawaii are random and that after several interviews, inconsistencies turned up in other witnesses' accounts. Finally, the real story emerged; the boy and the victim had been playing with a stolen gun when it discharged accidentally.
Police should be commended for being observant and persistent in uncovering the fake claim. Capt. Frank Fujii, the department spokesman, said though false reporting is a misdemeanor, it wastes police resources, affects the community and should not be tolerated.
Whether prosecution will deter others isn't clear, but Fujii feels that it would send a message "that you can't do that and expect to get away with it anymore."
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