Real life purge threats are spreading across the country, leading police departments to take the unusual step of actually addressing the viral rumors in the hopes that they don’t come true.
The threats are based on the 2013 movie The Purge and the 2014 sequel The Purge: Anarchy, in which the government declares a 12-hour period in which people can commit any crime they want.
Last week, a teen in Louisville started a “purge” threat on social media as a joke, but it quickly turned real. Several people seemed to believe the threat of a lawless 12 hours, and posted pictures of themselves getting prepared for the chaos that would ensue.
— Bob Flumaker (@JRCarnley) August 14, 2014
Though many people saw the purge threats as nothing more than a hoax, the Louisville Police Department was taking no precaution.
“Anytime that there is a threat that affects our community we are going to investigate that,” Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Phil Russell told WLKY. “If someone is threatening to harm members of our community, then we’re going to investigate them and pursue that as best we can.”
Now the real life purge threats are spreading, with reports of threats in Oklahoma, California, Ohio, Delaware, and Chicago. Though most people see them as nothing more than a hoax, police departments in many of the affected cities say they are worried that some ill-informed citizens might think it’s real.
Christina Garza, spokeswoman for the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, said via email, “Movie or no movie, the HCSO enforces the law 24/7. Our deputies will make sure that those who choose not to do so are prosecuted to the extent the law allows.”
Oklahoma police added that they are exercising every precaution after someone spread rumors of a real life purge threat there.
While nothing has come of the real life purge threats so far, police in other jurisdictions say they are not taking any chances.