Hoaxes Taking a Toll on Bay Area

Several hoaxes and false reports of crime are draining the resources of local authorities

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    NEWSLETTERS

    With many law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area facing major budget and staffing cuts, these false reports and hoaxes are putting a greater strain on officers, keeping them from fighting real crimes. NBC Bay Area's Marianne Favro reports. (Published Thursday, Feb 28, 2013)

    For the past 11 days, all 17 officers at the U.C. Santa Cruz Police Department have been searching around the clock for a rapist, after a 21-year-old said she was sexually assaulted on campus.

    Police now say she admitted the report was a lie. U.C. Santa Cruz police chief Nader Oweis admits the investigation put a strain on his department, but he says the community paid the bigger price.

    "I think the bigger impact is there is a deep sense of unease among residents in the area,” Oweis said.

    In January, Jennifer Araujo of San Jose reported  a man tried to snatch her three-year-old daughter from her arms.

    More than 60 police units responded to search for the suspect, canvassing the neighborhood.

    The woman later admitted she made the whole story up.

    “You had investigators canvassing the area looking for suspects and they could have been working on other cases,” said Albert Morales of the San Jose Police Department.

    Araujo was arrested for falsely reporting a crime, a misdemeanor. She'll be arraigned next week. Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Tamalca Harris said if she is convicted, she faces a maximum of six months in jail and a 1,000-dollar fine.

    With many law enforcement agencies in the Bay Area facing major budget and staffing cuts, these false reports and hoaxes are putting a greater strain on officers, keeping them from fighting real crimes.

    “When you find out these people are lying to you it is frustrating and not fair to the other citizens in your community asking you to investigate their crimes," Morales said.

    It is not just law enforcement affected by suspected hoaxes. This week the U.S. Coast Guard received a distress call claiming a sailboat, with a  couple and two young children onboard,  was sinking 65 miles off the Monterey Coast.

    The Coast Guard launched an exhaustive 48 hour air and sea search for the family. The mission was often dangerous with crews in  helicopters looking for the boat in the dark.

    The search is now over, but the investigation into the suspected hoax is just beginning. The Coast Guard is still tallying the dollar cost, but many question if these recent hoaxes in the Bay Area are taking a much greater toll on the community.

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