Anonymous and unfounded threats of an active shooter caused an increased police presence at a handful of Delaware schools on Thursday, according to several local police departments.
The threats, Delaware State Police said, were also made elsewhere across the country.
Newark police said it increased security at city schools as police investigated the validity of the threat. The department was also in contact with the Christina School District.
Delaware State Police also said it investigated threats made to multiple schools.
“These calls have been determined to be a hoax and a form of ‘swatting,'” a state police news release issued Thursday afternoon said. “Swatting occurs when a prank call is made to emergency services in an attempt to generate a large police response at a particular address.”
Delaware police said early on Thursday that they were looking into whether the threats were legitimate or acts of swatting. Usually, someone making that kind of unfounded threat disguises their phone number and its origin.
Authorities have said that instances of swatting have spread from a prank among gamers to greater prominence used by white supremacists targeting minorities, as well as others seeking to terrorize public officials.
Swatting suspects face a wide range of penalties for creating a false public alarm, depending on the situation:
- 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine for a fourth-degree charge
- Three to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine for a third-degree charge
- Five to 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine for a second-degree charge
A former Georgetown resident was sentenced to three years and one month in federal prison in late 2020 after he pleaded guilty to five federal counts of making interstate threats and one count of making a false threat involving explosives earlier that year.
His crimes involved a tit-for-tat online fight that saw bomb threats called in by one of his rivals to Georgetown Elementary School, as well as a Walmart in Georgetown in 2018.
Are the threats happening nationwide?
Delaware State Police confirmed Thursday afternoon that the hoax threats were also made outside of the state.
Schools throughout Nebraska received the threats beginning Thursday morning, according to Omaha’s local NBC affiliate. Police determined they were all swatting calls. Other schools in the Midwest also reported hoax threats.
On Wednesday, multiple Colorado schools were temporarily placed under a secure status after reports of threats, according to the Denver Post. In Colorado, secure status is different from a full lockdown as doors are unlocked for police investigation and classes resume inside secured classrooms.
Several St. Louis County, Minnesota, schools also received swatting threats on Tuesday, according to WDIO.com — a television station in Duluth, Minnesota. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s office said the calls also went to several media outlets, as well as some police departments directly.
What we know about threats around Delaware
Wilmington police said Thursday morning that they were at the Bancroft School, located in the 700 block of Lombard St., investigating a threat of violence. While investigators determined the threat to be unfounded, officers remained at the school throughout the day.
Parents in the Indian River School District also received the following message on Thursday:
Several school districts issued notices on their websites, including Red Clay Consolidated School District, which said law enforcement agencies across the state and nation had received false threats of active shooters at various schools.
“Red Clay schools have not received any direct calls or threats,” the message said. “However, Delaware State Police are actively investigating. At this time, there have been no safety concerns.”
State police said officers were at multiple schools throughout the state conducting patrols to ensure everyone’s safety. The agency said it was working with “allied law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate” the calls.
Source: Delaware Online