Editorial: Robbery hoax led to cooperative effort

By on May 8, 2009

When we first learned of the report that a woman was pulled over on Bliss Road in Sugar Grove by someone impersonating a cop, robbed and threatened, we felt we needed to act fast to inform our readers and web viewers.

We put up preliminary info on our website and Twitter feed quickly, hoping that either people traveling along that roadway would find out about it quickly and report what they saw to the police; as well as to let other drivers know of what went on so they could be prepared if they felt something similar was happening to them.

The police moved even more quickly, informing us and other media outlets as soon as humanly possible, and passing out flyers and soliciting information from the public; again, both in order to find the perpetrator as well as to protect members of the public from a future similar incident.

Furthermore, the public acted quickly as well. According to Sugar Grove police investigator John Sizer (see story, page 1A), “The public response was overwhelming. We had calls from all over the place. Virtually everyone we talked to was aware of it.”

The public heard about it, informed their fellow community members, and those who felt they had possibly useful information relayed it to the public.

We appreciate the speed with which the police and the public acted after the alleged incident.

Fortunately, the crime never took place—it was a hoax perpetrated by the “victim,” Danielle L. Hechenbach, 32, of Yorkville. Based on the circumstances described in Elburn Herald reporter Susan O’Neill’s story, it is pretty obvious that one of two things occurred: Either she did not think the truth would be discovered, or she did not realize the damage that her false report could cause.

In addition to the general fear and concern that spread throughout the community, one must factor in the time and money spent looking for someone that does not exist. In addition, that time and money could have been spent on other things, looking for other criminals or preventing other crimes. Finally, the hoax also risks lessening the impact should something similar—and real—happen in the future, as people may be more likely to view such a report with a measure of cynicism.

Obviously, the bright side is that the robbery never occurred; and the department, local media and public were able to see how well they can work together when a perceived safety-related issue occurs.