HOWELL, MI (WLNS) – Making a terrorist threat, real or fake is no joke to police agencies. If convicted, the crime could cost you up to 20 years behind bars.
Just yesterday, the Howell Public School District received one via Twitter.
In just under 24 hours, police tracked down the suspect, took him into custody, and issued charges.
Unfortunately, a situation like this one is all too familiar for many law enforcement agencies, that’s because within the last couple of weeks, a number of schools received similar threats.
“A lesson to be learned from all of this is, the Twitter account that put it out had nothing to identify who the individual was and in the course of about 4 hours, the police had identified, made contact, and taken that person into custody,” Tom Gould, Director of Public Relations for Howell Public Schools said. “So what you put out there, you think it’s anonymous, it really isn’t.
Officials in the Howell School District had a brief scare Wednesday night, after police say 21 year-old Scott Parker tweeted a threatening message and tagged the districts twitter account.
While the post mentioned “killing” officials say the students and staff were never in danger. But, it’s no joking matter.
Parker now faces four counts of Making a Threat of Terrorism.
A similar situation happened last week at Holt High School after a bomb threat was found on a bathroom wall there.
The student was taken into custody and confessed to the crime.
Officials say the student didn’t have the means to carry out any threat and deemed the incident a hoax.
“Particularly when you have juveniles or young kids making these kind of threats, they don’t understand the seriousness of it,” Dr. David Carter said.
Dr. Carter is a Criminal Justice Professor and Director of the Intelligence Program at Michigan State University.
Most recently, 23 year old former MSU student Sydney Gort was charged with two counts of making a terrorist threat after officials say she wrote a disturbing message on MSU’s Packaging Building in November and once before that, back in April.
Gort’s attorney argues she poses no threat to the community; however she faces up to 20 years in prison for each felony charge.
“They usually have an ulterior motive,” Dr. Carter said. “We’ll get out of school; we will cause some disruption, some ciaos.
And that’s not the first time police say an MSU student made a threat on the social media.
Last year a threat was made on an app called “Yik Yak” threatening a school shooting. It forced many schools to be put on secure in place safety measures.
Dr. Carter says a false claim is considered a big waste of resources, because there’s both a human and financial cost involved.
“So you’ve got disruption of the learning, you’ve got disruption of the school community, the cost of the response, depending on the nature of it can be tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.
Under Michigan’s Anti-Terrorism Act, if a person is accused of making or falsely reporting a terrorist threat, it is not a defense to these charges that the person did not have the actual intent or ability to commit the act of terrorism.
Each threat is taken literally and seriously.