Fighting Rumors: The Cost Of False Alarms And Threats
A bomb threat to a Bullock County High School, a threat of mass casualties in Crenshaw County Schools, and hearsay of a shooting at Troy University; all examples of costly rumors. The recent threat at Troy left the entire campus on high alert.
“[There was] a writing on the bathroom wall in the dining hall saying that there would be a shooting at Troy University” explained Dean of Students, Herbert Reeves. He said that one alarming message quickly snowballed into something much bigger.
“Over the course of the next few days that writing on the bathroom wall mushroomed into other threats that supposedly were left in other bathrooms you know notes and letters and then it started making its way to social media” said Reeves.
Police presence on campus nearly quadrupled for a reported threat that turned out to be a false alarm.
The Dean said “there was no credible evidence it was all i heard it from my friend who heard it from another friend and so we kept going back down this list of friends to find out there were not other notes there were no other people”.
Crenshaw County Schools also fell victim to a vague threat, that left classrooms empty for two days. Superintendent Dr. Boyd English said he was notified by the FBI, after they came across a message on a gaming site.
“The threat came in on that site and it said…mass casualties toward a school…” he explained.
The message did not specify any particular school in the county, but naturally caused concern for those in the surrounding community who were also notified.
“I got a call from the Crenshaw County 911 saying I was in danger, that this area that I’m in is in danger and that I might need to evacuate my home”said Flonell Carnes. She lives directly across the street from Luverne High School.
The scare came on the heels of severe weather in the area, which also caused schools to close their doors. Now with a total of 4 days to make up this school year, the superintendent says the county could be in a crunch. He questioned “What if you have another tropical depression? or what if we have a cold winter what if we have an ice storm”?
Bullock County Schools are in a similar situation after a bomb threat was sent to a high school principle.
The cost of these threats go beyond just the loss of instructional time…and inconvenienced parents when you factor in the costs of teachers paid not to teach, and resources called in to investigate these threats the price tag could quickly balloon to several thousands of dollars. While the vast majority of similar threats turn out to be hoaxes, officials say they have to be investigated and taken seriously. and its not just schools dealing with false reports.
“we had a situation last year around the Camelia Bowl where a citizen claimed that they saw a shooting right outside of Crampton bowl it never happened but a lot of resources that have to be drawn and from other things to do those investigations”. said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange. Strange says that these rumors come at a price that others ultimately have to pay. “We’re seeing that more and more…and all you’re doing is you’re bleeding resources away from really helping citizens fight the crime that’s out there”.
Officials agree that social media has played a large role in the rapid spread of false information, and has ultimately changed the way the law enforcement does their job….-LT. K.R. Peoples with the Montgomery Fire Department says they now monitor several social media outlets.
Peoples says because of the time and resources that go in to investigating these threats or rumors, law enforcement is becoming stricter when it comes to prosecuting those who knowingly spread false information or make violent threats.
“anytime you make a threat whether it’s a bomb or anything of that nature to a business or any kind of structure like that, you’re looking at a felony charge which is class c felony”explained Peoples.
Mayor Strange warned “If you are going to say something that is not correct you are going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and we need to strengthen those penalties because we are seeing that more and more”.