Crime

Facebook post on breaking into a car for a child or dog is #fakenews, police say

About that Facebook post that says police say it’s OK to break a car’s window if you see a child or dog locked in it in hot weather.

The widely circulated post “is #fakenews that has been going around on the ’net for a few weeks,” Gulfport police Sgt. Joshua Bromen said. “Nothing has changed, and when have you ever heard of a police department telling you to break into a car if you believe the owner is committing a crime?”

Just call 911, he said.

Here’s what the latest post says, which people are being asked to share:

“The Police are now saying if you see either a child or dog locked in a car in hot weather, take a picture of the child or dog and the car. If someone is with you, get them to bring up the weather for your area on their phone so you can screen shot the temp, then break the car window. This way, you will not be charged with criminal damage and it gives the police photo evidence to take the child/dog owners to court.

Can everyone please copy and paste this information to prevent this cruel act from happening?

Summer is coming!” (emojis of dogs and cats follow)

Broman said he’s heard of cases in which police learned a car was running. Also, you can’t always hear a hydrid car’s air conditioning or engine running, he said.

Bromen said he once responded to a call and learned the “body” in the back seat was a CPR dummy.

If one of those turns out to be the case, a broken-into car’s owner could take you to court over the damages or file a criminal complaint against you.

The safer choice

“It’s just safer to call 911 and allow the first responders to enter the vehicle,” Bromen said. “Also, you run the risk of harming yourself or others by breaking the window.”

When you call 911, officers respond and a dispatcher begins to document information and coordinate emergency response as needed. A dispatcher also logs information provided, such as the outside temperature and the “real feel” temperature, Bromen said. Officers’ observations and recorded phone calls work in the court system if a crime has been committed, he said. Police can take their own pictures, too.

His best advice is, “If you see something, say something. Call 911 and report it.”

But it may not be worth sharing — or believing every post you see on Facebook.

Hot-car deaths of children are rare on the Mississippi Coast, although the state ranks 16th nationwide in heat-stroke deaths of children left in hot vehicles, according to KidsAndCars.org. The group urges parents and caregivers to always check the back seat before they lock a car.

In a rare hot-car death involving a child in South Mississippi, a high-profile case is pending involving the September death of 2-year-old Cheyenne Hyer. Her mother, Cassie Barker, was a Long Beach police officer and reportedly left the child in her patrol car while she visited with her supervisor at his home after their shift ended. Barker faces prosecution on a manslaughter charge.

Robin Fitzgerald: 228-896-2307, @robincrimenews

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