Law enforcement weighs in on social media influence and school threats

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FARMINGTON, N.M. – Teens writing threatening posts on social media or making hoax calls to schools, are examples of threats of violence surrounding schools, and they’ve become familiar headlines to us all.

Many of these cases start online. 

“It’s become easier to take a picture of a weapon on Snapchat,” said Kyle Dowdy, deputy chief of the Farmington Police Department. “We live in a day and age where students, especially, they’re going to want to document what they are doing.”

Once it’s out there, that information spreads.

“The pictures start to get circulated around school, and then it becomes a school threat,” said Dowdy. 

Whether credible or a joke, what is posted online is taken very seriously.

“So, then we go into procedures such as lockdown that potentially we wouldn’t have in the past based on that fact that maybe it’s an individualized threat,” Dowdy added. “We would have searched that person for a weapon and handled it accordingly.”

But social media has changed that.

“Now with the prevalence of social media we have to take precautions, every threat is thoroughly evaluated, thoroughly investigated, and we do procedures such as lockdown just so that threat doesn’t escalate to something worse,” Dowdy added.

And there are more and more of these cases turning up on law enforcement desks but for a reason you might not expect.

“We are investigating more of them, but I don’t know if there is more threats there is just a higher volume and a different method of reporting them than there have been in the past,” Dowdy said.

And more information on possible threats is helpful to law enforcement and school districts because students are the eyes and ears of schools.

“Through Farmington Municipal Schools we have an anonymous reporting system and I think students have been comfortable with reporting threats,” Superintendent Farmington Municipal Schools, Cody Diehl said.  “They hear more, they see more, we have 11,000 students so when they see things or hear things that are out of place, we need them to speak up.”

The most recent school threat in San Juan County occurred on Monday after alleged threats were circulating on social media. 

The Farmington and Navajo Police Department are actively investigating, and an arrest was made.