Chesterfield abduction hoax prompts call for legislation
CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - It was a moment that left shoppers calling for help at a Midlothian Walmart, when witnesses say they watched a woman jump out of the trunk of a car, and two men chased her, forcing her back in.
It turned out to be a hoax.
Chesterfield Police say a group of 19-and-20-year-olds planned to film the situation and bystander reaction to post online.
The group was not charged, but Chesterfield Police Chief Colonel Jeffrey Katz called the situation a "performance crime," asking for lawmakers to step in to help make changes - to possibly prevent another hoax.
"While there are statutes that may loosely apply, I think it's important that we charge based solely on legislative intent. Going forward, we would encourage members of the General Assembly to consider legislation that addresses the hazards of social media performances that jeopardize public safety," Katz explained in a statement.
Virginia Senator Amanda Chase, R-District 11, quickly responded, and has already started working on a bill that could bring penalties for those who take law enforcement away to focus on things that turn out to not be legitimate. Col. Katz and Chase discussed the abduction hoax in an interview on her radio show on Friday.
"We need to reserve our law enforcement for real purposes and real uses," Chase explained. "If you look at what happened last week, they were working on a murder case, and their resources were diverted. I think there is a financial impact that needs to be recovered by whoever is the offender."
Chase says she was surprised legislation addressing an issue like this did already exist, but she has ideas about what penalties would look like - such as a $500 or even $1000 fine to cover the costs of taking resources away from more important cases.
"I've already gotten input from the community. Some people want to make sure if a good Samaritan steps in and uses their 2nd Amendment right, they are protected as well," she said.
Chase says she is continuing to work with Col. Katz, the Commonwealth's Attorney and members of the house to draft a house version of the senate bill she is currently working on.
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