FBI and police launch #thinkbeforeyoupost campaign against hoax threats against schools
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Federal Bureau of Investigations, Charlotte Mecklenburg School Police as well as local law enforcement chiefs from across Mecklenburg County have a very clear message as a new school year is about to start.
Police say they're not tolerating hoax threats against schools and students after seeing an increase in these threats recently, which is why they've started the new campaign: #thinkbeforeyoupost.
There are billboards along some of the interstates in the Charlotte area and inside the EpiCenter in Charlotte. Police say they will also promote the message on their social media platforms.
They say they want students to understand what exactly they're doing when they post school threats.
"Because what you put out there remains there indefinitely," said Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. "It's a blemish on you. It represents negatively on you but also it harms others."
CMS Police say last year they saw more hoax threats than in the past.
"Hoax threats create unnecessary fears among our students, our staff, our parents and our community," said CMS Police Chief Lisa Mangum. "Hoax threats are not a joke."
While the district doesn't have specific numbers, police say they've spent a lot of time investigating threats that use a lot of manpower, resources and disrupt or close schools… and on top of that the hoax causes a lot of fears.
Chief Mangum said "based on the fact of investigations that our department alone did - it was probably twice if not three times greater than in years past."
Police say some of the threats start with a text message then gets posted on social media.
"These times that's how our young people communicate is through social media so instead of speaking among each other in groups they want do it through text messaging," said Chief Mangum. "I think it's the availability. I think that has a huge impact. Everybody has a phone. Everybody uses a phone. What's your quickest way of communicating? It's through text messaging or posting."
Police are using the campaign to remind people, especially students, that school threats have consequences.
"We determine the credibility of the threat.We work very hard to determine who has made the threat which is very challenging in today's technological age and we also determine whether charges need to be brought against the individual," said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Jason Kaplan. "Please think before you post. Do not allow a thoughtless comment on social media to lead to criminal charges against you that can change the rest of your life."
The FBI says these threats are federal and state crimes.
And police are investigating, charging and prosecuting – whether it was a joke or not.
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