February 11, 2019
A recent Facebook post from a local police department is going viral—not for being informative and useful, but because commenters are calling it out as glaringly sexist and mom-shaming. Law enforcement in Friendswood, Texas apparently thought it would be helpful to remind "mothers" and "ladies" that leaving possessions in their cars is just inviting vehicle burglaries.
The February 4 post reads: "How many times will thieves steal purses out of cars of mothers who 'just run inside' the daycare to pick up or drop off their child? If you can answer that question, Friendswood Police need your help!"
In the next paragraph, the PSA again addresses women exclusively: "Ladies….take your purse and cell phone with you. Don’t leave it in the car for crooks to steal. And guess what, that extra minute it would have taken to grab your purse now turns into four hours of calling credit card companies, banks and cell phone companies to cancel your stuff." Then, the post takes a turn for the truly antiquated and galling: "Worse yet, you have to tell your spouse what you just did and I’m sure that won’t be pleasant."
The outrageous post concludes, "Even if the day care has a camera, which most don’t, the temporary license plate on the crook’s car is bogus and the crook isn’t from around here, so no one is going to recognize him if an image is captured. Real talk!"
Commenters immediately pointed out post's absurdly, in-your-face mom-shaming and sexist rhetoric. One commenter named Jessica Miller sarcastically wrote, "Husbands/Male Head of the Household, really if you are allowing your wives or women of your family to drive a motorized vehicle without male supervision this is your fault. Friendswood Police Department ought to suggest you just keep those females at home, where they belong. Besides, who is doing the cooking, cleaning and ironing if they're out irresponsibly gallivanting [stet] around?"
Jac Brennan responded, pointing out the disturbing parallel to rape culture and victim blaming, writing, "Those flighty ditsy [stet] moms, leaving their purses to be stolen, and then going through the unpleasant task of telling their spouses. After this post, I'd be more afraid to call the Friendswood Police about this crime because—it's going to be my fault that someone else committed a crime? Wait—was I asking for it?"
Another commenter named Heather Newstead did the department the favor of "fixing" the PSA: "Dear CITIZENS, take your personal items with you when you leave your vehicle. Purse, cell phone, wallet, backpacks, should all come with you. Don’t leave it in the car for thieves to steal. It only takes a minute to gather your things, but it will take hours of calling credit card companies, banks and cell phone companies to cancel your accounts and report the theft and start over.
Even if the day care has a camera, which most don’t, the temporary license plate on the thief’s car is bogus and the thief may not be local, so no one is going to recognize him if an image is captured.
We will continue to work hard to keep you safe, but we would appreciate anything you can do to ensure your belongings aren’t stolen."
Upon catching wind of the backlash, the police department wrote in the comments: "Monday’s Friendswood Police Department Weekly Report included a well intentioned tip aimed at reducing a reoccurring crime: car break-ins to steal valuables left in plain sight. It had a very casual tone with exaggerations; much different from the PD’s usually serious tone. The message was not received by everyone in the spirit it was intended. This has given us an opportunity to work toward more effective communications."
The response was perceived as far from appropriate. As Miller pointed out in a follow-up comment, the correct response to the "condescending, victim blaming and absolutely sexist" post would have been for the fire department to "issue an apology to the community you serve" and "do better."