The most conservative estimates found there were at least 3,380 threats of violence made against American schools last year including 120 in Illinois. That’s a 62 percent increase over the previous school year, according to data compiled by the Educator’s School Safety Network.
The FBI’s Chicago field office is responding to the troubling trend by rethinking the way it helps local police investigate school threats. Agents from the counter-terrorism squad are now joining the hunt to track those making threats in both the cyber and physical worlds.
“We find not only in random acts of violence but also in the terrorism world: Somebody associated with that individual saw something, the signs, that would’ve indicated and would’ve helped us,” FBI Chicago assistant special agent in charge Chris Serdinak said. “If they had called and told, we could’ve stopped it.”
Previously, threat investigations were siloed based on the suspected motive. Mass shootings in Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., illustrate a killer’s motive may be less relevant than whether that person has the means and intent to carry-out a threat.
Police and the FBI are spending an increasing amount of time sorting through hoax threats. “Using social media and the internet to make a threat is much like when we were younger pulling the fire alarm in school,” Serdinak said.
For more information, visit eschoolsafety.org/violence.