Another one from Associated's "Oh My God Lock Your Doors We're All Going To Die Horribly" desk, the same people who brought you the gun that can't kill you.
“It looks like a harmless teenage prank – training shoes dangling from telephone wires in a quiet suburban street” intoned the Mail on Sunday on 21 April. “But for residents in this affluent neighbourhood it is a sign of something far more sinister. It tells them violent gangs are operating in their midst. Police say the symbol has started springing up across the country as a warning sign from gangs to rivals to keep off their ‘patch’.”
Obstinately, the police weren’t saying it to the Mail on Sunday, however. The only evidence the paper seemed to have amassed that the discarded footwear had any sinister overtones came from “A local youth in Kensal Rise, who called himself Gaz and claimed to be a member of a street gang,” and the vendor of a £400,000 house in the area, who claimed “We asked about the trainers and people said it was an American thing and to do with drugs.”
Police in America, however, have been more forthcoming. “That’s not true”, a public information office for Fresno Police and representative of California’s Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium told his local paper just last week. “I've checked around, and I’ve been assured that's not the case.” The paper’s conclusion? Exactly the same as the dozens of other US media outlets who have investigated the phenomenon since it was first comprehensively debunked in 1996: “This appears to be a solidly entrenched urban myth.”