Those cute family decals that show family members and pets may be attracting the wrong kind of attention, according to first responders, who warn that the pictures, taken with other stickers on the car, may provide criminals with too much information.
Others find that notion laughable.
A graphic created by Rapid Assistance to Community Emergencies in Ohio, which is changing its name to Search and Rescue Ohio in June, shows just how much information decals and bumper stickers can impart to a casual observer. It posted the warning on its Facebook page, which linked in turn to New York TV station WABC-7 and its warning.
Aided by the illustration, it doesn't take much for the imagination to fill in some blanks.
For example, a parking decal can tell where you live and an "honor student" brag sticker can reveal where your child attends school. A cat figure but no dog can hint that there won't be a barking ruckus in case of a break-in. Some of the decals are heavily personalized with information like the fact that mom or dad is in the military and might be gone. Some provide names of family members.
Cpl. Paul Moulton of the Lafayette Police Department in Ohio told DJ Digital that "while police don't necessarily advocate against the decals, the least amount of public information made available about you and your family will result in the fewest amount of opportunities for anything to occur at the hands of any potential predators."
"The stick-figure family may divulge too much information as to how many children are home, what ages they are, if you have a dog, if you don't," Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Chief Patrick O'Rourke told WDRB in Louisville, Kentucky. "Be cautious about what you're putting on your vehicle. Be aware of what the ramifications may be."
Not everyone's trembling. Jason Torchinsky scoffs on Jalopnik that "there's plenty of reasons to not have those cloying stick-figure family stickers in your window: They're insipid, dorky, and kind of saccharine. But you know what they're not? Dangerous. Even though fear-mongering local news stations want you to think so."
He continues, "Here's the reasoning behind the warnings: bad, bad people will look at the back window of your Nautica Edition Mercury Villager or Quest or Town and Country or whatever, see these stick figures, and know everything they need to know about you to commit horrible crimes. There's five of you in the family? Perfect. Three are kids, and two are parents. Interesting ratio. The kids have genders? Excellent. Oh, and there's a dog, too. All the ingredients for the perfect crime."