Rash of fake 911 calls prompt a warning from local police
WHITE SETTLEMENT (CBSNewsTexas.com) – With school shootings no longer rare and a generation now normalized to the fear, law enforcement is now raising alarms about another concern: Hoax calls.
"The kids likely will come up with a story – 'I was just kidding, it was a joke'," says White Settlement Police Chief Chris Cook. "It's not a joke: we say 'real threats equal real regrets'."
And it's not just prank calls to schools. Cook says his officers in recent weeks have even located and arrested juveniles for threatening other students in social media posts. One even flashed a fake gun. That didn't matter – handcuffs aren't funny.
"At the end of the day, you're still away from your home environment," warns Cook. "You're in a secure detention facility and don't have access to your phone, friends or family. It's a very scary proposition: especially for those that are good kids, and they did something really dumb. That's the parents that we want to reach."
Many North Texas families are already on edge following two shootings on school campuses this week. A student was wounded at Thomas Jefferson High in Dallas. A student was killed in a shooting at Arlington Lamar.
Still. The problem of hoax calls or 'swatting' is bigger than a few misguided students. Law enforcement in Mansfield determined that a fake 911 call reporting an alleged shooting there originated from out of the country.
"My suspicions around this are this is someone likely testing our systems, to see if we become lax in our response," says Mo Canady.
Canady is executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. His organization supports having SROs on every campus.
"Where there's an SRO there on campus, you already have that law enforcement resource there and they seem to be able to diagnose the situation more quickly," says Canady, "which enables them to stop the lights and siren response and enables us to get the school out of the lockdown or lockout procedure that they're in more quickly."
Meanwhile, local education experts say schools are also adapting to new threats.
"Schools have really beefed up their resources and they're a lot more sophisticated in what they're doing," says Stephen Waddell.
Waddell, a veteran educator of some 43 years, is a retired superintendent and now guides the next generation of principals and superintendents as an executive in residence at the University of North Texas College of Education. He stresses the importance of maintaining a consistent response, collaborating with police, and keeping the threat in perspective.
"Actually, if you look at the data, I think it's clear that schools are still the safest places in the country to be," says Waddell. "Becoming more knowledgeable about what's out there. I think that's a good thing! I think the more people know the better they'll feel."
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