News 12 Special Assignment: Dangerous Decals

By: Patrick Price
By: Patrick Price

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Call it a sticky situation that could leave your life hard to put back together.

"I think it somebody wanted to target me, they could've," said Lavon Hill.

All with personal, intimate details of her everyday life, put on display for thousands every day.

"That could be something that a predator could use, to invade your life," she said.

She's a mom of two, proud wife, who loves her family and everything they've accomplished. Why not show it all off on her car.

"I put the family in there, I wanted to make sure they had, each sport represented, our church," said Hill.

After all, it's like a moving billboard, right? Some stickers can lead criminals on a chase. For example, if there's a military hat on your stick figure dad, it clues in the criminal that the dad is in the military and possibly overseas. If the kids have soccer balls or cheerleading pom poms, it shows they do after school sports and are away from their parents at times.

The big catch is what you put under your stick figures-- names, giving criminals what they need to make a move.

"You don't think about that when you're applying them on your car, you're thinking, oh well I am representing this, I'm proud of him for this," said Hill.

Nowadays, there's a sticker for everything.

"I had everything you needed to know on the back of my SUV," she said.

There's what neighborhood you live in, what sports your kids play and even where you kids go to school. All of those stickers were on the back of Hill's car.

"I had a lot of stickers, we were pretty happy and pretty proud," she said.

She never realized how much information she actually put out.

"Those are the things in this world that we would like to think are not putting our family at risk," said Lt. Tim Thorton with North Augusta Public Safety.

Thorton calls it a game of common sense, staying one step ahead of the criminal-- limiting what they can use to hurt you.

"Your kid's an honor roll student at a local elementary school, I know you're proud, but that tells the criminal mind where your kid goes to school, what his hobbies are and might even know his or her name," he said. "Anything that you can do to minimize the potential of risk, the potential of danger, or problems is a plus."

Knowing now how much she actually put out, Hill is sticking to playing it safe.

"It is a scary thought that someone could actually look at the back of your vehicle and learn that much and affect your life," she said.

The portable family portrait is now gone. In its place, " a GON sticker. A magazine subscription for hunting, fishing and guns. "

"They know you have guns, that's right," said Hill. "They do know that from the back of my vehicle, that you're welcome to break in to my house but you might not like the result."

A different kind of message to a criminal, stick figure family or not.

The History of Bumper Stickers:

They come in all shapes and sizes.

You see them on cars, trucks and SUVs.

And they can tell a lot about you--your politics, religion and the size of your family.

These bumper stickers, though, have one thing in common: Kansas City, their birth place.

In the late 1930s, some Americans began to attach placards to their cars using wires, according to the book "Branding & Advertising"
by Seema Gupta. The idea was to make their opinions public.

One print shop owner from Kansas City made this placard even more popular and widespread.

In his local shop in the 1940s, Forest Gill created an adhesive paper that could stick to bumpers, making it easy for people to display their opinion on cars, according to a New York Times article
.
The bumper-sticker business boomed, especially because of national elections.

During the 1960 presidential election, according to the Times, people all across the country were already using bumper stickers to show support for their favorite candidate.

Displaying their political opinion has always been part of the bumper-sticker culture.

In recent years, however, more and more Americans have been sticking with a new form of display: family figures.

As News 12's Patrick Price will show you in a special assignment, unlike the political statements, this new kind of car sticker may be putting your family at risk.

This special assignment will air at 11 p.m. Thursday on News 12.


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