Police must decide when to charge for false reports - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Police must decide when to charge for false reports

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The decision to charge or not charge a person who lies about a crime - isn't always easy to make. Investigators have to weigh a number of factors before making that determination and sometimes the Commonwealth Attorney has to get involved. NBC12 investigated how often false reports are filed and how they get prosecuted.

Police say there's no question about it. Investigating a crime that never happened drains resources, but they have to take every report seriously.

When VCU sent out an alert Sunday of a reported attempted abduction near campus - it sent many students panicking.

"I was at the library at the time and I was going to walk back and I was kinda scared," said student Lisa Hicks.

"I think it's kind of creepy," another added.

But one day later - police determined student Cassandra Albrecht made it all up. Now, she's awaiting her day in court.

It's not the first time investigators have encountered this. Last year, Richmond Police received 29 false reports. This year there have been 36. In Chesterfield, investigators received 63 false reports this year and the same last year.

"What we don't want to see our police officers doing is unnecessarily taking the resources to pursue a story that's not true," said Commonwealth Attorney Shannon Taylor.

But sometimes the state won't pursue charges. Take for instance - just last month - a 12-year-old boy told police someone tried to kidnap him near a bus stop in Eastern Henrico. Police say detectives spent multiple hours canvassing the neighborhood and trying to get answers. There were none to find. He also made the story up - but won't be charged.

"Because of the child's age we have to look and say is that false story an intentional, willful act and for a child, that may not be the case…You don't want to criminalize penalize a child for that action," Taylor said.

"What if he had been an adult?" NBC12 asked.

"Well then again we have to look and see what is the underlying reason for that willful, intentional act," she said.

Taylor says there are some domestic violence situations when a person complains of being battered but later says it never happened to protect their loved one. Also - some have lied to police to cover up fraud. In both cases - suspects have been charged.

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