Police: Rumors about York and North York gang initiations are not true

This is one of the photo images being Tweeted by York residents Saturday night. Police said the information was not true and was just a rumor.

Rumors about home invasions in North York spread to Facebook and Twitter Saturday night and had several residents concerned about their safety. After several concerned messages from residents, we followed up on the issue and confirmed none of the rumors were true. Here is how it all unfolded:

A message on Liberty Fire Company‘s Facebook page read:

The North York fire co was just informed of a few burglaries and a home invasion that has happened here in North York. It is said to be a gang initiation that involves break into homes while the residents are home. Please keep an I open for anything or anyone who seems to be suspicious and keep an eye on properties close to you too. An lastly DO NOT confront anyone. Call the police!!!!

I saw this message shortly after it was posted Saturday night and I emailed the text to Chief Mark Bentzel with Northern York County Regional Police.

Chief Bentzel responded, saying: The most recent incident we had in North York was a prowler call on Aug. 1. In that case we made an arrest. . . . I would prefer that information of this nature, first be verified, and then be disseminated properly by the department.

I posted part of Chief Bentzel’s response under the Liberty Fire Company post to respond to some residents who mentioned they were concerned. Someone from the fire company then responded, saying a man walking around the borough had told them the information.

I later emailed Lt. Tim Utley, head of the detective division with York City Police, to see if they had heard of any suspicious activity.

Utley said the information was “BS.” A few years ago, Utley said, there were rumors about headlights being flashed and robberies being committed as part of gang initiation, but none of it proved to be true. Utley said those kind of rumors spread “fear and hysteria.”

Acting Fire Chief Dave Michaels with York Fire/Rescue Services said the post was a “personnel issue,” and he declined to comment further.

The message posted on Liberty Fire Company’s Facebook page has since been taken down.

About Rebecca Hanlon

Rebecca Hanlon is the health reporter with a religion sub beat at the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Follow her on Twitter @mrsbeccahanlon or on Facebook at facebook.com/byrebeccahanlon.
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