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Fact check: Flashing your headlights is not a trigger for a deadly gang initiation rite

Posts shared on Facebook and Instagram show a letter warning people not to flash their headlights at any car with no lights on. They say that as part of a Bloods initiation game, new gang members are required to drive along with no lights and then chase the first car that flashes them and shoot and kill everyone in the vehicle. This letter is not real, and the claim stems from an old urban legend.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Examples of such posts can be found herehere , and here .  

The claim is part of a myth that has been circulating on the Internet since as early as 1998. A Snopes fact check from that year (here) says that “print references to this gang initiation scare date to 1993,” but “anecdotal information places it as far back as the early 1980s”, when Hell’s Angels bikers in California were rumored to be initiating inductees in this way. “By 1984 the story had spread to Eugene, Oregon and had by then changed into a tale of Black and Hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles targeting white people,” according to Snopes. 

A 2006 NPR Morning Edition story also addressed the legend. Commentator Judy Muller attended a press conference held by members of the Bloods street gang for the purpose of dispelling the rumor (  here  ). 

The latest version circulating on the Internet shows a letter allegedly from Nick Potgieter, Community Policing Manager at “Chubb Electronic Security”. It reads: “In order to be accepted into the gang, [prospective Bloods] have to shoot and kill all individuals in the first auto that does a courtesy flash to warn them that their lights are off.”

The letter includes a South African address in the top left corner, despite the claim being largely shared by U.S. users.  The Bloods are not a South African gang, but a U.S. gang based in Los Angeles (  here  ). More information on the history of the Bloods, as well as their rivals, the Crips, can be found here .  

The letter shared on Facebook also claims that police officers working with Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.), a police officer-led U.S. classroom program that aims to help children live drug and violence-free lives, have issued the warning (  dare.org/about/  ). Richard Mahan, the Chief Operating Officer of D.A.R.E. (  dare.org/richard-mahan/  ), told Reuters via email: “This is ‘an old time scam’ and has no validity whatsoever.” 

“Neither I nor my six regional directors and vice president of regional operations, each of whom is a retired law enforcement officer, has ever heard of a D.A.R.E. officer issuing such a warning to his/her classes or to members of their community,” Mahan added.

Reuters also spoke with a representative for the National Gang Center, a governmental organization coordinated by the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) that seeks to suppress gang-related crime (www.nationalgangcenter.gov/  ), and asked what initiation into the Bloods typically looks like. 

“Initiation rituals vary based on local gang culture,” the spokesperson said. “The Bloods are not one singularly-structured national gang with standard operating procedures, including initiation rituals.” 

VERDICT

False. The claim that flashing one’s headlights at a car with its lights off will trigger a gang initiation game is part of a false urban legend.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts  here  .  

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