As students across New Mexico and the U.S. begin a new school year, the FBI has launched a social media campaign to educate people about the consequences of making hoax threats to commit violence in schools and other public places.
Earlier this year the FBI began a social media campaign using the #thinkbeforeyoupost hashtag to inform the public, especially young people, about the consequences to commiting an act of violence against someone or in a public place like a school, a press release from the FBI’s Albuquerque division said.
Frank Fisher, public affairs officer with the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, said Monday that threatening to commit an act of violence in school or elsewhere is not a harmless way to vent but is taken very seriously.
“Hoax threats are a big drain on law enforcement resources, they waste money, they disrupt classes and they can potentially put first responders at risk,” Fisher said Monday.
Each threat is investigated and if the clues lead back to somebody, that person can be sentenced to up to five years in federal prison.
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He said if a federal charge is not found to be warranted, a suspect can still face state criminal charges.
Fisher said the FBI sees and receives reports about dozens of threats of violence on social media in the wake of a nationally-watched school shooting. He added that last year when a man opened fire at a school in Aztec, the FBI in collaboration with local law enforcement had to respond to dozens of hoax postings about possible violence in schools and other public places.
The release from the FBI states people should never post or send any hoax threats of violence online.
According to the release people should:
• Immediately contact local law enforcement or their local FBI office if they see a threat of violence posted on social media. Tips can also be submitted to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
• Notify authorities but don’t share or forward the threat until law enforcement has had a chance to investigate in order to prevent the spread of misinformation and panic.
Parents and family members should speak to a child about proper outlets for their stress or other emotions, and talk to them about the importance of responsible social media use and consequences of posting hoax threats. Parents and family members should know that some young people post hoax threats as a means to get attention, exact revenge or exert control
The release also sates people should contact law enforcement when they learn about potential threats or suspicious behavior.
“If there is any reason to believe the safety of others is at risk, we ask that the public immediately reach out to their local police department by calling 911,” the release states.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.