CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - As the school year was about to start last August, the FBI and local police departments launched a campaign that warned students about hoax school threats.
Now that the school year is about to end, what did police see with school threats?
Did the campaign make a difference?
“As of Memorial Day weekend, 45 documented school threats in the schools we service in Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS). If you want to compare to year prior, we had 35. About a 28% increase as of right now,” said Lt. Gene Lim of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD). “I think we have seen a number of social media threats but we’ve also seen self-initiated where a student tells an SRO or a School Resource Officer and a teacher or staff member. I think you could attribute that to the campaign as well in a positive way. Most of the students are taking these seriously as we do and they’re seeing something and saying something.”
The #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign, which included posters, billboards along some local highways, and social media posts, was aimed at hoax threats posted online. But, police say all school threats were targeted.
“It set the school year off on the right note that law enforcement agencies in this area are taking this extremely seriously,” said Lt Lim. “Unfortunately, we live in a culture now where we’re seeing it more. We’re seeing more violence. And we want to get that message to the students because we want them to communicate to us when it happens so we can jump right on.”
CMPD says of the documented threats they investigated between August and May:
- 9 didn't require any law enforcement action.
- 9 were referred to CMPD's Youth Diversion program.
- 12 saw disciplinary action from school officials.
- 12 resulted in arrests.
How do police decide where a school threat should lead to charges?
“It could be the history. It could be the access to weapons. We take a comprehensive look at all that and decide what we need to do from there,” said Lt. Lim. “You’re looking at a lot of things. When we get these threats, we handle them so comprehensively. We use obviously the School Resource Officer and the Principal and CMS Police. We have the Criminal Intelligence Unit that jumps on anything that is digitally sent. We have our patrol division – if it’s after hours if it’s a threat that’s off campus because that statute covers proms, athletic events – everything is going to fall under that statute.”
Police say there’s really no such thing as a hoax threat.
“These threats oftentimes come in when it’s after school hours so you know people have already worked their eight hour shift and have to come back in and investigate these things,” said Lt Lim. “We take them all – each individual threat – very seriously. We have all the resources to be able to handle them and we do that because we cannot take the chance of minimizing any of them.
WBTV checked with police departments in Mecklenburg County where CMS schools are located to see if officers investigated any school threats.
As of this writing, WBTV had not heard back from Davidson Police or Cornelius Police.
Huntersville Police Department is the only other department with a case
“Our dispatch received a call from someone claiming they’re going to shoot up North Mecklenburg High School so we had officers respond,” said Sgt. Ryan Smith. “Our detectives went to the school as well and started interviews with students and through that they were able to determine which student actually made the phone call to 911.”
Police say it was a 15-year-old who made the threat on May 28th.
“It appears he did not have any intentions of actually going through with any type of school shooting,” said Sgt. Smith. “From what we were able to determine we didn’t see that he had access to anything to be able to shoot up the school from what we were able to find.”
Police say the case has been referred to juvenile services for a criminal charge.
“Made threats against the school that put several schools on lock down, had a large police presence at the school, making sure the school and the students were safe and because of that we don’t want to take any threat lightly,” said Sgt. Smith. “We want to make sure that everyone is protected all the time.”
Huntersville Police say they hope other students learned from what happened.
“I hope so but we don’t have a lot of threats against the school in Huntersville so when we do we have a large police presence to make sure everybody is safe but we also investigate each thoroughly to make sure – if charges are appropriate – that we do charge. And if they’re not, that we make sure that we do take the right measures to make sure that we continue to make sure schools are safe” said Sgt. Smith.