Experts urge caution when it comes to E-Rumors

By Sara Celi - bio | email

COLD SPRING, KY (FOX19) - Earlier this year, fear roamed the streets of Cold Spring, KY subdivisions. Neighbors told each other a man was on the loose, trying to snatch kids in neighborhoods all over the town. Neighbors spead the information about sightings, and their concern through Facebook, Twitter, and emails.

Cold Spring police chief Edward Burk remembers it all clearly. "They sent this out, and we became inundated with calls that it happened in Cold Spring. We took some time to do some research, but it started this chain reaction of people making calls," says Burk.

Burk says his small department spent hours searching the neighborhoods looking for the man, only to find He only exhisted on the internet.

"They think because it came to their personal email, that it must be true," says Burk.

This fall, something similar happened in almost the same community. Emails started running all around Southern Campbell County about home burglaries in the middle of the day. Again, neighbors warned each other about it on the internet. Emails sent around the community urged people to help catch the cooks. This time, the "e-rumors" were true. Campbell County police say these home burglaries were happened often, and were violent.

"We had one, in one house, they threw a pumpkin through a $1000 TV," says Campbell County Police chief Keith Hill.

In September, police throughout the county arrested a number of so-called burglars. They say the neighborhood email chain helped them link the cases together, and catch a number of burglars in the act. It may be a part of a larger trend, and illustrate a change in communication.

"If you look at Facebook, Twitter, they're like extensions of the information communication that goest on in neighborhoods," says Xavier University's Dr. Mike Nelson. He says it clear the internet has changed how rumors start and spread.

FOX19 found several people in the Tristate who agree with that.

"A thousand people on Facebook can see it at any given time," says Tristate college student Larry Underwood.

"I've never spread one, but I've seen them and they are never true really," says Tristate resident Ben Rust.

"People have taken it way to far, it's just nuts how far people have taken it," says UC student Rebecca Frisby.

Nelson says he urges people to be cautious with credibility, and to not believe everything they read.

"I have trust in most people that they will view that for what it is, and then, that they would go ahead and check out if some of that information is in fact true," says Nelson.

Back in Cold Spring, Edward Burk says his department welcomes the calls about rumors that go around town. He says his department is happy to be a credible source for the community.

"We would rather sit there and follow up on a hundred misleads, as opposed to having one no call that is the child molester that is attempting to abduct someone. And I think most people would prefer that," says Burk.

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