WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 02, 2010, 08:21 AM

Harsh penalties for people who report fake crimes

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Valley City Police are looking to press charges against a University student who admitted she made up an abduction report on campus. You may be surprised how many "false" reports police actually get and what penalties do people face when they do lie?

Cass County deals with thousands of calls and reports every year, but what many don't realize dozens of those reports end up to be fake. Police take every report seriously, but after an investigation is complete there are times when the alleged victim ends up the guilty suspect.

The number of cases Cass County authorities deal with each year hovers around 7,000. A fraction of these, police say, turn out to be fake and for Fargo Police, they say it's usually something they uncover pretty quickly.

SGT. Mark Lykken: "These crimes, when people make a false report, once we critically analyze what they've told us, nothing adds up."

So far this year Cass County has prosecuted 102-cases of falsifying a police report. Many of those are for giving fake names, or birthdays, but at-least a dozen cases are the more serious alleged crimes, like rape or attempted abductions.

Birch Burdick: "If some really unfortunate crime has occurred and as a result, people are worried about what's happening in their community, if people then learn, if the criminal justice system learns that it never happened, then indeed the people have been spun up."

It’s no small task investigating these crimes. If you get caught in a lie, it’s no slap on the wrist. You face 1-year in prison, and/or a $2,000 dollar fine.

Birch Burdick: "For the most part these are misdemeanor crimes, but in some circumstances there is a felony charge for obstructing an investigation."

Police say they investigate every case and send it to the states attorney's office where they decide to charge someone. But in rare cases, it’s just wasted money and wasted time.

SGT. Mark Lykken: "Were busy enough real crimes, and then to be tasked with investigating crimes that never happened, it takes away from real victims of real crimes."

After speaking with police, they say they have at-least one crime they're investigating that’s a possible false report, but the majority of crimes in our area are very real with real consequences.