Ever since the Parkland, Florida high school shooting spree 9 month ago that left 17 people dead, the number of hoax threats made against schools and businesses in the Garden State has been much higher than normal.

Things have gotten so bad that New Jersey law enforcement officials are now appealing to the public for help.

“Without getting into a specific number we’ve definitely had a larger degree of threats in general,” said Jared Maples, the director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.

He said it’s normal for a lot of threats to be made in New Jersey, but since Parkland the numbers have spiked.

“We’ve seen threats throughout the communities, schools certainly have been an uptick across the board, private facilities, companies, office buildings," Maples said.

He said his office is working with the FBI, the State Police and the Attorney General’s Office to get the message out that hoax threats are dangerous criminal activity.

“If there are hoax threats it takes resources away from real threats, and two, it creates a potentially dangerous situation with law enforcement going to investigate it, shutting down schools, universities, businesses, offices etc.,” he said.

So who’s making these threats?

He said “a lot of times it’s really been individuals, quite frankly people that just have time on their hands or maybe have other issues that they’re dealing with.”

“They tend to submit these threats, whether it be online or verbally or quite frankly even as much as writing on the bathroom wall, Maples said. "We’ve seen those as well at school.”

Maples said a lot of these threats are made by high school kids.

“The message to the parents is you have to talk about them. We’ve got to get children and the students understanding that these are serious issues," Maples said.

He said it’s important for kids to understand “if you make these threats, whether you’re joking or maybe truly trying to pull a hoax or whatever those may be, the hoax itself is just as serious and we are going to follow those leads down.”

Maples said depending on the situation, a person who makes a hoax threat may face up to five years behind bars.

He’s calling on parents and anyone else who becomes aware of a threat, whether it’s a hoax or not, to report it, either to local police or by calling 911.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.

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