The 911 call about 10 p.m. Thursday sent Minneapolis police scrambling to care for victims and to assess the public threat posed by what appeared to be a teen tragedy -- three high school girls apparently kidnapped from a south Minneapolis neighborhood, possibly drugged, molested, then abandoned near a Cub Foods market on Lake Street.

The girls' story was eventually dismissed as a hoax, but not before 26 hours of police investigation, ambulance rides to Hennepin County Medical Center, sexual assault exams, crime scene scrutiny and interviews too numerous to count.

The cost to taxpayers, insurance companies, the girls' families and others yet to be named? Thousands of dollars. "It's a lot of money," said Sgt. William Palmer, Minneapolis police spokesman.

The cost of police work on the case alone totaled $1,232.51. Five officers worked on the case, including a homicide investigator pulled off his regular duties who worked through the night on the mysterious assault. Finally, at 2:30 a.m. Saturday, he threw in the towel, Palmer said.

The girls, two sisters and a cousin, "apparently were skipping school, but what led the investigator to decide [the crime claim] was unfounded, I don't know," he said.

The 12 total hours that four beat officers devoted to the case cost the city $390.16 in salary. The investigator, who earns $39.64 per hour, clocked a regular 10-hour shift, plus 7.5 hours of overtime, for a total tab of $842.35.

"And that's just salary time, not including fringe benefits or what the city pays in pension," said Palmer.

The police will refer the case to the county attorney, who will decide whether to bring charges for filing a false police report, Palmer said.

Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431