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Gang Member Hidden in Back Seat Myth

Summary:
Email forward claims that gang members are hiding in the back seats of cars in order to abduct young women driving alone (Full commentary below.)



Status:
False

Update:
In late 2007, several new Australian and English variants of the hoax began circulating. Like earlier versions, the new variants have no basis in fact.

Example:(Submitted October, 2005)
Subject: ***Brisbane Warning - Please read

***WARNING***

Please circulate this following warning to everyone you know.

This actually happened a few weeks ago right here near Fairfield in Brisbane. It was early evening and a young lady stopped to get petrol at a Quix. She filled her tank and walked into the store to pay for her petrol. The cashier told her "Don't pay for your petrol yet.....walk around the store for a while and act as if you're picking up some other things to buy. A man just got into the back of your car. I've called the police and they're on their way".

When the police arrived, they found the man in the back seat of the girl's car and asked him what he was doing. He replied, he was joining a gang and the initiation to join is to kidnap a woman and bring her back to the gang to be raped by every member of the gang.

If the woman was still alive by the time they finish with her then They let her go. According to the police that night, there is a new gang forming here originating from Wetherill Park. The scary part of this is because the guy didn't have a weapon on him the police could only charge him with trespassing.... He's back on the street and fee to try again.

Please be aware of what's going on around you and for your family and friends. LADIES you or one of your family and friends could be the next victim.

Please forward this on to everyone you know. Please do not discard this message it is very important that everyone knows what is happening.

A similar event took place on 7 March 2002 at a 7-Eleven servo in Wynnum. Please be careful when leaving your vehicle and make sure it is ALWAYS locked to prevent this from happening to you.




Commentary:
The dubious "warning" included above is a rehashed variant of an old urban legend that has been passed around since at least the 1960's. The legend of the criminal hiding in the back seat of a motor vehicle ready to attack the helpless female driver predates the Internet by decades. In this instance, someone has created a version of the hoax specifically aimed at Australian recipients. It is very similar to other versions of the hoax that are set in the US, the UK, Canada and various other locations around the world.

© Olivia R. Davy, 2009

Gang member hidden in back seat
Searches of the Queensland Police Service website reveal no reports of the incidents described in the warning email. I have found no credible news reports about such abduction attempts in Queensland or elsewhere in Australia. Other versions relocate the supposed abductions attempt to Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and other regions of Australia. If the "gang initiation" method described in the message was really occurring and was a matter of police record, it would have almost certainly been given attention in the mainstream media. Also, if they were true, warnings about such gang activity would be released via official channels rather than distributed via the random forwarding of an email.

Because of this lack of confirmation from any reliable source, the email warning has very little credibility. Also, the fact that similar, and equally unsubstantiated, versions have circulated in different areas of the world for many years indicates that the Australianised variants are as much a work of fiction as their predecessors.

In late 2007, several new English variants of the hoax began circulating. The variants are virtually identical to the Australian version included above except that the "action" is instead located in various parts of England. Some falsely claim to be endorsed by UK police. However, again, there is no credible evidence whatsoever that such gang-related initiation activities are actually occurring. Their similarity to earlier versions suggest that pranksters have once again simply substituted alternative locations before sending on the bogus messages.

Almost all of these stories are inherently sexist in that they involve an apparently helpless and unobservant female that needs to be "saved" by a more attentive individual, depicted as male in most versions. At their core, these stories are just modern examples of the male-biased "Red-Riding Hood" like folk-tales that have been told for centuries. Such tales pander to the traditional gender role models of the female victim, the male protector and the evil male predator and are underpinned by overt or covert sexual themes.

Some of the details included in the warning appear to be manufactured purely to support the narrative. The message claims that the would-be rapist volunteered information to the police about his activities and his gang involvement when even the dumbest of criminals would be highly unlikely to do so. The potential gang member's "loose lips" would be sure to increase the attention payed to his gang by the police and would certainly not make him very popular with his fellow criminals. Although contrived and logically flawed, the gang member's admissions are crucial to the tale because they let the reader know his truly sinister intentions. Without his confession, the tale loses its impact. The reader could conclude that the perpetrator may have had a more mundane motive for hiding in the back seat such as robbery or perhaps even just a desire to hitch a free ride "up-town".

There are a number of urban legends that involve the supposed initiation rituals of gang members. Another "gang initiation" hoax involves gang members driving without headlights and shooting at any driver who flashes his or her lights at them.

Of course, it is possible that a criminal could hide in a back seat of a vehicle and attack the driver. In fact an article on Snopes.com reveals that the legend may have been derived from a real incident. In 1964, an escaped criminal apparently hid in the back of a car and was subsequently shot by the car's owner, a police officer. However, unlike the subsequent stories, the criminal's motive was apparently just to escape the authorities and his plans were thwarted decisively by the male driver. In spite of this tenuous connection to a real event, there is absolutely no evidence that gang initiation rituals using the modus operandi described in the message are actually occurring.

Like many urban legends, there is some wisdom hidden among the nonsense. It is of course advisable for both male and female drivers to remain vigilant and always lock their vehicles, even if they are only stepping away for a short time.

One US Version:
IMPORTANT PLEASE READ

A friend stopped at a pay-at-the-pump gas station to get gas. Once she filled her gas tank and after paying at the pump and starting to leave, the voice of the attendant inside came over the speaker. He told her that something happened with her card and that she needed to come inside to pay. The lady was confused because the transaction showed complete and approved. She relayed that to him and was getting ready to leave but the attendant, once again, urged her to come in to pay or there'd be trouble. She proceeded to go inside and started arguing with the attendant about his threat. He told her to calm down and listen carefully:

He said that while she was pumping gas, a guy slipped into the back seat of her car on the other side and the attendant had already called the police.

She became frightened and looked out in time to see her car door open and the guy slip out. The report is that the new gang initiation thing is to bring back a woman and/or her car. One way they are doing this is crawling under women's cars while they're pumping gas or at grocery stores in the nighttime. The other way is slipping into unattended cars and kidnapping the women.

Please pass this on to other women, young and old alike. Be extra careful going to and from your car at night. If at all possible, don't go alone!

This is real!!

The message:

1. ALWAYS lock your car doors, even if you're gone for just a second!

2. Check underneath your car when approaching it for reentry, and check in the back before getting in.

3. Always be aware of your surroundings and of other individuals in your general vicinity, particularly at night!

Send this to everyone so your friends can take precaution.

AND GUYS...YOU TELL ANY WOMEN YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS Thanks,

Barbara Baker, Secretary Directorate of Training U.S. Army Military Police School

THIS IS TOO SERIOUS ... DO NOT DELETE. PLEASE PASS IT ON!!


References:
Queensland Police Service
Wikipedia: Little Red Riding Hood
RCMP Warning Hoax - No Headlights Gang Initiation Myth
The Killer in The Backseat

Last updated: 21st October 2009
First published: October 2005

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen