The Sterling police say they spent time over the weekend investigating a false report.
About 7:30 p.m. Saturday, a 13-year-old girl walked away from a boxing event at the Latin American Social Club in Sterling. She reported she had been forced into a maroon van by two men and later released.
The girl, who is white, described the men as black.
The Sterling Police Department assigned an investigator and officers to work on the case. One of my co-workers who lives west of Sterling told me that he was approached by a police officer at his home about whether he had seen two black men in a maroon van.
My co-worker had not – and for a good reason: They likely didn't exist.
Monday, the Sterling Police Department announced the girl's report was unfounded.
Police decided not to charge the girl with making a false report; her age and other factors played into that decision, detective Sgt. Steve Hubbard said.
The Police Department never issued a public alert for the men, although friends of the family got the word out on Sauk Valley Media's Facebook page. Were the police skeptical of the girl's story from the beginning?
Hubbard said that was "fair to say."
Why did the girl choose to describe her fictitious kidnappers as black?
That's not clear, but she's certainly not the first white person to do so.
In Google searches, it appears that black men often are the targets of choice in false reports.
The most famous example was in 1994. Susan Smith, then 23, told police she had been carjacked by a black man who drove away with her two young sons in the car.
Nine days later, she admitted to making up the whole story. She had let her car roll into a South Carolina lake, drowning her children.
During the 2008 presidential race, a campaign volunteer for John McCain concocted a story of a black man robbing her and scratching the letter "B" on her face. As in the Sterling case, the police doubted the woman's story from the start. Two days later, she admitted she lied, saying she believed she had scratched the "B" on her face.
In 2012, a California man admitted lying about being robbed at knifepoint by a black man. That confession followed a month-long manhunt for the fictitious suspect.
"We came up with a composite photo that we sent out to agencies, and they're looking for any poor guy who looked like that composite," a police official told the Contra Costa Times. "You've got the racial overtones from that."
And that's not even mentioning the waste of police resources.
David Giuliani is a reporter for Sauk Valley Media. He can be reached at dgiuliani@saukvalley or at 800-798-4085, ext. 525.