School threats considered a ‘game’ by callers
Threats of bombs and mass shootings made to ten school districts on Tuesday was not limited to New Jersey as districts around the country received similar calls in what amounts to a game for those making the threats.
Schools in Massachusetts, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia all reported receiving a call from a robotic sounding voice. Special Agent Michael Whittaker of the FBI's Newark office said "we are fully aware of it and providing any assistance that local law enforcement may need." He could not comment on any connection between the New Jersey incidents and the ones around the country.
Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronato points out that many of the calls are made by those he refers to as "gamers" from out of the country. "This is a game. It's like upsmanship where one gamer works with another gamer to see who can cause the most swatting incidents and get the most points."
Coronato said the motivation for the calls comes from a desire for attention from the media, discussion among gamers in forums and on social media, as well as revenge against other gamers for previous swatting incidents. "They sometimes post advertisements and get to brag that they get people to move in all kinds of different directions and they can cause this attention."
Coronato said that when the threat comes in, "people have to act like a 911 operator" and take note of certain things that can help trace the call. The problem, according to Coronato, is that the "gamers" will often call multiple locations around the same time and make different threats, often speaking with people who are not trained to handle the call properly.
The technology used by the gamers is a challenge for law enforcement to keep up with because it keeps changing on both sides. "We're getting better and better," said Coronato who added that the newest technology is often "the most expensive technology," which presents a challenge to budget conscious agencies.
Law enforcement has no choice but to respond to each call. "You can't make a determination" when the call comes in that it is baseless. "They could be setting you up for the next time when it's not baseless. That's the problem; you have to react."
In New Jersey, districts in Bergenfield, Clifton, Englewood, Fair Lawn, Garfield, Hackensack, Leonia, New Milford, Teaneck and Tenafly all received threats on Tuesday along with Sayreville, reported NorthJersey.com. Clifton Police reported on their Facebook page there was a heightened police presence in the schools including K9 units.
Whittaker said he was not aware of any threats received on Wednesday