Sunday Mornings with Rania: Vet it Before You Share it
Do you follow community neighborhood pages? They are a great way for neighbors to stay involved and connected. That said, these sites can also be a breeding ground for rumors that cause fear, impact schools or businesses and disrupt our daily lives. A recent post incited great alarm and was brought to my attention the moment I got home from traveling. It went something like this:
A woman placed her purse in a shopping cart while shopping at a local grocery store. She remained vigilant the entire time and never left her purse. That said, when she went to pay, her wallet was gone. It had been stolen. Frustrated and overwhelmed, she went home. Shortly thereafter she got a call from the manager of the grocery store indicating that they had found her wallet and that she should come back to retrieve it. When she went back, the store manager said that not only had he not called her but that there had been no sign of her wallet. She returned home only to find her home had been ransacked in her absence.
When you think about this post, it’s absolutely horrifying. Every one of us can imagine being this woman. As a result, the post was shared multiple times with an outcry for community members to be extra vigilant when shopping. The post, which also identified the grocery store and the neighborhood, got us even more concerned. We dove in to investigate.
About the incident:
We started by reaching out to the Director of Security at the grocery store in question. He was made aware of the post and its rapidly growing circulation. He also indicated that there were no reports of any incidents at the store - no reports of a theft of a purse, a wallet, nor of a woman who had discussions with a manager regarding a stolen wallet. He also checked surveillance video and saw nothing of a theft or a woman in distress. Nothing. The security team also tried to contact the women who made the original post but none of those attempts were returned. We reached out to Chief Ray Schultz of the Memorial Village Police to see if there were any reports of home burglaries in the immediate areas surrounding the grocery store in question. He too indicated there had been none.
This could mean a few things:
- The woman’s wallet was stolen as she indicated but that she never reported it to law enforcement. The oddity there goes back to her conversations with the store manager who had reported having no conversations with any shoppers about a stolen or missing wallet.
- Regarding the break-in at her home, it could be that she lived far from the store in question and in an area monitored by HPD or another agency as opposed to the Memorial Village Police.
- We could also be dealing with a situation where the alleged incident didn’t happen at all.
All that said, this post can be used as a reminder to:
- Never leave the scene of a crime without filing a police report and talking to the Director of Security if the facility/store has one on location. Always do this - even if nothing happens after you file your claim, please just file a report.
- Make sure to not only talk to the manager on duty but get copies of their name and business card. We recommended following up with an email that reiterates what happened on the premise.
- Try to have your purse on you at all times, zipped and closed. If you have a purse that does not zip or fully close, have your wallet placed in a manner that would make it extremely difficult for others to grab quickly. Even the most “open” type of bag has inside zippers or attached pouches that are great places to hide your wallet.
- Additionally, should your wallet be stolen, be critically critical of any and every call received in the immediate aftermath - whether it be a call that someone has found your wallet or calls from companies claiming the need to verify information... always have your guard up as a criminal with all your information could easily be calling you as part of their next plan. Be careful.
About the post
These neighborhood community pages are important. What’s even more important is that these forums allow members to share information that helps others in the community. Parents read these posts, real estate agents read these posts, teens read the posts, teachers, local law enforcement, business owners, media and others all read these posts. If the information is false and “alarming” it throws large groups of people down a road they don’t need to go; it keeps people talking and hurts reputations, engagement and more. These posts truly matter.
My recommendation - when you see an alarming post with a warning, vet it before you share it. Your local law enforcement agency is one phone call away. It takes no time to call them first to make sure the incident is true. If it is, I’m sure they will appreciate the communities’ help in getting critical information out. If it’s not true, however, how thankful will you be to have checked before you shared?
Most of all, we live in a thriving Houston where crime is an issue. The greatest community tool we have is our vigilant and connected community. To the community members who take a moment to share a legitimate warning or a safety message, we are all so incredibly thankful for you! To those who love to share emotionally, while you are appreciated, we urge you to make sure to not let emotions fuel rumors that ultimately come back and hurt us all. To those who post falsely, I implore you to please stop. While you may get clicks and shares, you ultimately damage businesses while costing law enforcement precious time. And most of all, to any victims of crime, I hope we all work with you to make sure that even through the trauma, all incidents are properly reported and you are always safe in the aftermath. The safety of our wonderful neighborhoods takes each and every one of us working together and we are the best in that regard.
Join The Buzz Magazines and Crime Stoppers of Houston for a hands-on self-defense class in partnership with Krav Haganah and Evelyn's Park, Tues., July 30, 7-9 p.m. See more details here.
Read past Sundays with Rania posts here. Find more information on Crime Stoppers of Houston on their website or follow them on Facebook. Have topics in mind that you’d like Rania to write about? Comment below or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Rania is co-host of a weekly podcast which features interesting local and national guests who used their platforms for the good of the community. Connect with Rania on Instagram and Twitter.
Editor's Note: Views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of The Buzz Magazines.
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