When a Prank is a Crime

by on July 26th, 2010
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A lot of pranks have made the news over the years. Some of them are fairly silly but not injurious to anyone’s health. Some are deadly. Most of the pranks that make the news do so because the prankster(s) broke the law. Here are a few examples of innocent and not so innocent pranks gone wrong:

Animal Abuse: It’s not funny to tie tin cans to a cat or dog’s tail. That’s mild compared to some pranks that have been exposed in the media. Harming an animal in any way as a form of amusement is not just morally reprehensible, it’s illegal.

Arson via Fireworks: It happens just about every year. Some children get their hands on fireworks and start a fire. This is a really common problem in Southern California. Our brush is often dry and it doesn’t take much to start a fire that burns thousands of acres, many homes and threatens (and takes) the lives of people caught in the path. That’s one reason most fireworks are banned in California.

Intentional Injury: A few days ago, a woman was nearly killed when a couple of boys pushed a shopping cart off the roof of a four story building and it landed on her head. At this point, it’s not even known if she’ll survive let alone live a normal life.

This isn’t the only intentional injury sort of prank. Kids throw rocks off of overpasses at cars on the freeways below. When they hit the windshield, they can harm the passengers, and they can cause the cars to crash. None of this is funny. It’s serious and can be considered attempted murder.

Theft: Usually these are meant as light hearted jokes. A local case happened when a group of high school students stole a big, blow up gorilla from a local car dealership. The thing was quite heavy, so there had to be a bunch involved. The next day, the gorilla was found, sitting on top of a rival school’s roof. Even if charges aren’t pressed, this is still illegal.

Vandalism: Egging cars and houses isn’t amusing, particularly when it comes to cleaning up. Neither are slit tires, smashing decorations or spray painting someone else’s property. To a certain degree, I think vandalism falls outside the category of prank, I think it is much more anger or hatred driven. It’s also a crime.

Parents, we need to teach our kids not to do these things. Tell them why it’s wrong. If you catch them at it, deal with it appropriately. Children, even if your parents don’t tell you it’s wrong, you know it is. A harmless prank isn’t necessarily bad, but you can go too far.

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