Sunday, April 24, 2011

The story of dangling shoes


Why do people toss shoes over power and telephone lines?

Urban legend (and one of my own former blogs...oops!) suggests it's to mark illegal drug sale locations or gang activity. Really? I have dangling shoes in my community and yet we have no gang activity and practically no street drug sales.

A terrific new BBC documentary, New York's Hanging Sneakers, aired recently and discovered no clear answer. Drug deal locations are only one of many possible reasons.

A recent article in the Toronto Star followed four cases of dangling shoes and found four different stories - none conclusive.


Cops typically describe dangling shoes and drug sales as urban myth. In the Toronto Star article one Toronto drug cop says, in his experience, the drug explanation is bunk. That's neither scientific nor surprising. Obviously drug dealers would spend only a very short time near their dangling shoe marker and probably depart long before cops figure it out.

To complicate matters, dangling shoes can mean anything from a local fad, a prank, drug activity or the death of a gang member. Snopes.com confirms the multiple explanation theory, a theory that started in 1996 when one writer described 14 different possibilities.

Truth is, it depends. It depends on street culture. It depends on the prevalence of gangs. It depends on bored local youth. Truth is, without a proper CPTED risk assessment, you can only guess. And as we know in prevention, guessing is never a good idea.

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