The tale of the boy who cried wolf feels all too relevant this week.
In the past few days, there have been three stories about disturbing incidents, just across the river in Langley, involving children. First, two girls reported a flasher encountered near their school.
Then two boys said they had been the subject of a luring attempt. Finally, a third girl was again the subject of an attempted abduction.
Unfortunately, one of those incidents, the one involving two 11-year-old boys, was fabricated, police say. After the police released a sketch of the suspect, the man pictured came forward and spoke to them. A quick second questioning of the boys revealed the truth.
It's easy to see how such a prank could get started, especially for children. They are bombarded with warnings about abductions and stranger danger - however rare those incidents may be, schools and parents want them to be safe. So stirring up a little trouble might seem like a lot of fun to a child's point of view.
Unfortunately, they can't see the bigger picture yet.
A false report, as the RCMP point out, can cause needless concern among residents, can smear an innocent person's reputation, and can dilute the importance of real incidents. If faced with a deluge of such reports, people become numb and fearful, rather than watchful for the rare but real criminals.
What the police have kindly not mentioned is that they spent time and money chasing down a crime that does not exist. Every moment that police spend on extra patrols in a neighbourhood, in a search for a non-existent suspect's vehicle, or in talking to witnesses, is time they could have spent investigating burglaries, assaults, or robberies.
The RCMP are reliant on the truthfulness of the public. They can't ignore a report, so every false report will keep costing them - and the rest of us.