More swatting incidents plague New Jersey
As more threats are made to more New Jersey schools, the Ocean County Mall opened as usual on Thursday morning following a false bomb threat that led to an evacuation, one of three across the state on Wednesday.
Toms River Police Public Information Officer Ralph Stocco said in a statement that the mall received a call at 7 p.m. warning of a bomb inside the shopping center on Hooper Avenue that would hurt people. The mall was evacuated out of caution and a specially trained K9 explosive sniffing team was brought it for a search of the mall.
The mall was declared safe at midnight.
Meanwhile, Lakewood Police evacuated the Oak Street School around 10 a.m. on Thursday morning. "All students and personnel have been safely evacuated and moved to a remote location," police said in a statement.
K9 units and the Ocean County Sheriff's Department are involved in the investigation.
St. John Vianney High School in Holmdel received yet another "suspicious call" on Thursday morning forcing the school into a "shelter in place" mode for several hours. Normal activities resumed around 11:30 a.m.
Swatting incidents have an impact on the community both economically and on emergency services because emergency personnel is tied up and could be needed elsewhere for a real incident. "We practice and plan for this and initiated contingency plans so that the rest of the town has the same amount of police protection," Stocco said.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office promises to find who made the threat to the mall. "Every effort will be made to identify the responsible person(s) and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law, to include monetary compensation," according to a statement on their Facebook page, noting the large emergency response and lost wages and sales at the mall.
Toms River was well prepared for the search thanks to past drills. "Sometimes we would even plant (a) 'safe' device that has characteristics that would allow the K9 units to seek and locate it. We also practice orderly evacuations and responses," said Stocco. "This way we can evaluate current methods and make changes for the future."
Schools across New Jersey and the country are dealing with the false alarms called "swatting" because of the large tactical and police response required. Howell and Princeton schools have been targeted multiple times and Route 46 in Fort Lee was closed down on Sunday night for a false report of a man with a bomb strapped to his body
On Wednesday, there were swatting incidents at University Medical Center of Princeton in Plainsboro and Voorhees High School in Glen Gardner. Stocco said Toms River Police have been in touch with those departments. "We work with all local, county, state, and federal agencies who have varying levels of expertise to track down the suspects."
Tom Mongelli contributed to this report
- Bomb Threat Evacuates Oak Street School / The Lakewood Scoop