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Hoaxsters Do It For “Cheap Thrills”


coast guard
Photo courtesy Flick user Rennett Stowe

There were no stowaways on board a Port Newark bound cargo ship, the Blind Date Hoax is said to be linked with another boat hoax in Texas, and there’s been a case of “misuse” of emergency frequencies. It might seem like hoaxes are dominating the summer but according to the Coast Guard, it’s what they deal with on a regular basis.

Sector New York Coast Guard Public Affairs Officer Charles Rowe says last year they had sixty probable hoaxes, and this year they are at twelve already. He notes it’s still too early to tell if this is a particularly heavy year for the phony calls.

Rowe says the Coast Guard has no way of knowing if a call is real or a hoax when it is first received, so they respond in full force to it.

That mean’s fake calls present many danger to the first responders who are taking serious risks to find someone or something that isn’t there.

“[First responders] are going all out in the assumption that it is a real call. Secondly you are diverting resources from areas where a real emergency may occur, so you are risking people’s life. You add to that it is a waste of tax payer dollars and that’s who paying for it.”

There was a glut of coverage during the initial rescue attempts of the Blind Date and the search for the Port Newark “stowaways.” Rowe attributes the interest to size of the searches, in terms of manpower in resources.

“The greater the resources that you commit that you commit to any endeavor, whether it’s real rescue or a hoax, then the more likelihood that it will be noticed by the news media and by the public.”

Adding he isn’t shocked by the reaction to the Blind Date attempted rescue because it involved the Coast Guard sending in helicopters and small boats, as well as the NYPD, NJSP, Nassau County, as well as others sending out similar forces.

“The Coast Guard alone devoted more than three hundred thousand dollars in resources to an ultimately futile effort.”

Social media played a large part in spreading information about the Blind Date and stowaway hoaxes, which Rowe admits that new forms of communication have “the advantage and disadvantage of disseminating information on a much wider scale much more quickly than in the past. And that can work for you or against you depending on what you’re doing.”

Rowe says over the last few years, there were about a half dozen successful prosecutions.

“The number that we have apprehended and prosecuted is not high, but when someone is prosecuted, then the consequences can be quite severe.”

Speculating what causes someone to launch such a dangerous and expensive hoax Rowe responds almost immediately.
“Cheap thrills”

“I have heard it compared to people who set fires for the vicarious thrills of seeing the reaction.”

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