What’s With All the False Reports in South Carolina?

Judge William Gilmer filed a false police report last year in which he claimed he was threatened over the phone. Kathryn Isbell is believed to have made up a report about a brutal rape. Two men were caught pretending they were carjacked while out drinking. 16-year-old Pearl Brown made a false report and followed up by going on the news and doubling down on her lies.

Local police are saying they’re “plagued” by false reporting but as Joe Friday pointed out in this post, this is not a plague of particular virulence:

Deputies investigated 34 cases involving filing a false police report in 2009. Those cases resulted in 29 arrests, 18 of which were men and 11 were women.

The cases took up 429 man hours at a cost estimate of $8,933.76 to investigate, the sheriff’s office reported.

Which to worldly big city expats who’ve moved to the Greenville area seems like small beans compared to the hundreds of false reports in places like New York City. But Greenville County barely has the manpower or money to spare to deal with the expanding population and the crime and drug use we darn northerners have imported here in the last decade. 429 man hours and around $9000 is a big chunk of scarce resources to spend on people’s nonsense.

The question is why people think they can get away with this sort of crime. In a big city where people are used to feeling anonymous I can almost understand the mistaken belief that a person could get away with a false report and often enough those cases are parts of other crimes. Here many of the false reports seemed to be standalone crimes by people who had no obvious gain by filing them.

But maybe there’s some other motivation:

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.

In other words Pearl Brown and Kathryn Isbell can be explained away as spoiled narcissists who have no concept that their actions have consequences. In that respect many of these false reporters aren’t unusual and I’d suggest that dealing with false reports is going to increasingly be part of police business as the callow, coddled youth of today grow older and stop being catered to. There are hundreds of Kathryn Isbells and Pearl Browns in Greenville right now and they are all racing toward an obscure life of loneliness and invisibility. When that happens people unused to being satisfied with their own company will do anything to drag the rest of us into their petty lives.


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