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Law enforcement discusses online school threats

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Posted at 7:40 AM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 10:40:08-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — It's a disturbing trend: teens posting threats on social media. A scary scenario for families and those working hard to prevent a possible tragedy. 13 Action News Anchor Todd Quinones has more on monitoring and prosecuting suspects in these cases, in part two of a special Raising The Bar report.

"Unfortunately myself or friends haven't really taken it seriously," says 16-year-old Allison.

Sisters Allison and Leah admit, valley teens need to be more vigilant.

"Most of the time people see it more like a joke. Nobody's going to actually do anything," says 14-year-old Leah.

But local law enforcement isn't laughing.

NOT A JOKE

"There is no such thing as a joke when we're talking about this. People are going to be held accountable through the court system," says Special Agent in Charge Aaron Rouse with the FBI Las Vegas.

He says law enforcement looks into every single case, whether there's a potential for real violence or a hoax. In some cases he says the postings are part of a dangerous trend called "Swatting."

"Where they notify law enforcement authorities there is a critical incident requiring a SWAT response," says Rouse.

It's meant to attract as many police, fire and other emergency teams as possible to one location. But Rouse says diverting these crews puts other people who may need help at risk.

MONITOR QUESTIONABLE COMMUNICATIONS

To combat online pranks or possible violent acts, the FBI is working with the valley's Fusion Center, where officers from all jurisdictions collect and analyze data. It's also trying to work with tech companies to monitor questionable communications.

"Everything we do regarding monitoring or intercept has to have a Federal Judge say it's okay. It's not like the TV and the movies. There's quite a process to go through," says Rouse.

THINK BEFORE YOU POST

Ultimately the goal is to stop anything before it's even posted. That's why Rouse is helping spread the message: Think Before You Post. The national campaign looks to educate the public, that any online threat is a crime.

"Federal law is not as forgiving as you might think and it is a big deal," says Rouse.

PROSECUTED IN NEVADA

"If you're making a threat to do harm to somebody else or to a particular school, especially if it's a mass violence incident, law-enforcement is looking, and cases like that have been prosecuted not only in Nevada but throughout the United States," says U.S. Attorney Nicholas Trutanich with the District of Nevada.

He says it's a major problem. In fact officials have already confiscated 6 guns from Clark County schools this year. The latest case involving an 11-year-old.

DETECTION AND DISRUPTION

To stay ahead of the problem, the Department of Justice is holding an Early Detection and Disruption Seminar next month.

"Calling the best and the brightest from around the country to make sure we are talking about practices and lessons learned, to ensure we prevent mass violence incidents before they happen," says Trutanich.

GRANTS FOR SCHOOL SAFETY

In addition, the DOJ just announced it's awarding more than $85 million in grants to improve school security and safety across the country. They've also dedicated resources to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force and the valley's Fusion Center.

"We plugged that Assistant United States Attorney into those law enforcement resources in order to make sure that law enforcement has the ability to rapidly respond and take immediate action when a threat like this comes about," says Trutanich.

In the end, Trutanich wants anyone thinking of posting something questionable to consider their future and what's at risk.

"YOU COULD END UP BEHIND BARS"

"If you don't think before you post and you post something that is a threat, you could not only lose a potential job later in your life, but you could end up behind bars," says Trutanich.

It's a message that at least these teens, hear loud and clear.

"We need to report that. We need to ensure our own safety and everybody else's safey. Even if it doesn't involve you. It could happen anywhere to anyone," says Allison.

What is Raising The Bar?

Together with parents, educators, business and community leaders, 13 Action News will lead the discussion on improving education in Southern Nevada. We will connect families with solutions that empower our community to build a foundation for a successful future. If you have a story idea, email us at raisingthebar@ktnv.com.