Charleston, W.Va. - The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and other law enforcement agencies received 19 hoax threats in a total of 17 counties Wednesday regarding school shootings or other violence on campuses across the state. At this time, all calls received have been deemed not credible.
"Our response to these threats was fast, effective and well-coordinated," said Secretary of Homeland Security Jeff Sandy. "As we fulfill our mission to protect our students, schools and communities, we will diligently investigate each threat we receive and coordinate our response and investigation with local and federal authorities."
These types of false reports are commonly referred to as "swatting." Swatting is when someone contacts emergency services or 911 centers in an attempt to bring a large, armed law enforcement presence to a certain location. When receiving these reports, law enforcement agencies mobilize and respond rapidly, often with a special weapons and tactics team (SWAT), which inspired the term "swatting." Swatting ties up emergency services and can be deadly.
The West Virginia Fusion Center, under the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, will continue coordinating response efforts at the state level.
"Our ongoing priority is to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our students and communities," said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Rob Cunningham. "We will continue our investigation of each event and are prepared to respond again if needed. We ask the community to download our emergency response phone app and assist us in keeping our communities safe."
The community is encouraged to report any and all types of threats by calling 911 and utilizing the My Mobile Witness reporting app.
At this time, false threats have been received in Barbour, Berkeley, Cabell, Greenbrier, Hancock, Harrison, Jefferson, Kanawha, Marion, McDowell, Mercer, Monongalia, Ohio, Raleigh, Randolph, Taylor, and Wood counties.
The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security will provide updates as more information becomes available.
Reporting a Threat
The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security reminds all West Virginians to immediately call 911 if there is an immediate danger or law enforcement intervention is necessary.
Additionally, West Virginia has partnered with My Mobile Witness to implement a "see something, send something" reporting system that can be completed on a smartphone or other mobile device. All West Virginians are encouraged to participate in this initiative by downloading the free See, Send application from the App Store or Google Play.
My Mobile Witness is also compatible with web-based reporting and is not strictly for cell phone use. Once the app is downloaded to a device, users will be prompted to enter their first and last name (though any reporting can be done anonymously, if the user prefers), their phone number, and then select a state of residence. Once those fields are entered, the app will be ready to use. The user may submit tips for "Crime/Suspicious Activity" or "School Threat or Safety Issues," and they may also request help for "Suicide or Addiction."