Police give insight into determining credibility of school threats


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – How do investigators determine if a threat made against a school is credible?

Just this week, both York Technical School and Susquehanna Township High School were targeted; York Tech on Monday and Susquehanna on Tuesday.

Experts say it is a tedious process trying to find out if a danger does indeed exist.

“As soon as we receive a threat, we assume it to be credible,” Swatara Township police Lt Tim Shatto said.

He said almost immediately, investigators will try to identify who’s involved – both the suspect(s) and any potential targets.

“[We] try to get a background and build a history on the people that might be involved,” Shatto said. “We always make visits to the houses of any potential person suspected of making a threat to make sure they don’t have access to weapons or access to a means to actually carry out the threat.”

He said reaching a determination isn’t easy or something investigators take lightly. At Swatara, a forensics person combs over social media pages involved in the case.

“He is trained to look at computers, look at social media sites, try to link people together,” Shatto said. “All the kids are very involved in each other’s lives, and with social media, things are instantaneous.”

Security expert John Sancenito, president of Information Network Associates, or INA, said social media is a huge help in building a case; investigators use it to dissect a threat’s credibility.

“Was it an individual who took the time to actually spell out exactly what was going to happen or did they just call up and make a threat and hang up?” Sancenito said. “Listening for their age, any inflection in their voice, how serious they sounded.”

Police urge parents who hear rumors or see questionable posts to always feel comfortable reaching out.

“We would rather deal with 1,000 instances where a complaint is forwarded to us or a concern is made and it turns out to not be a valid complaint than to let one slip through the cracks,” Shatto said.

One person was charged with terroristic threats in each of the York and Susquehanna incidents.

You can report tips instantly and anonymously through the Safe2Say Something app or hotline. It’s run through the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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