The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Houston Division is launching #ThinkBeforeYouPost, a public awareness campaign to educate the public about the consequences of making hoax threats of violence to schools and other public places, and reminds everyone that hoax threats are not a joke.
Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Perrye K. Turner was joined at a news conference today announcing the campaign by members of the Houston Police Department; the Harris County Sheriff’s Office; police chiefs from the Houston, Katy, Fort Bend, and Aldine Independent School Districts; Crime Stoppers of Houston; and Clear Channel Outdoor.
“With the school year underway, we need students and the public to understand that making threats against a school is not a joke. There are serious legal consequences for those who do, even if there was never an intent to carry out the threat,” said SAC Turner.
In the aftermath of tragic shootings such as the ones at Santa Fe High School in Texas and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, the FBI and law enforcement agencies around the country often see an increase in threats made to schools.
“The FBI and our local law enforcement partners spend countless hours following up on every tip we receive from the public. We analyze and investigate all threats to determine their credibility,” said SAC Turner. “Schools shut down and teachers and students lose precious learning time as a result of these threats. Making false threats drains school and law enforcement resources unnecessarily and cost taxpayers a lot of money,” he added.
When an investigation concludes there was a false or hoax threat made to a school, or another public place, a federal charge could be considered, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If a federal charge is not warranted, state charges can be considered.
The Houston region #ThinkBeforeYouPost campaign will include digital billboard space generously donated by Clear Channel Outdoor to promote the message. Motorists will see the billboards along major highways in the greater Houston area beginning September 18, 2018.
“When someone posts false threats on social media it creates a lot of fear and anxiety that’s why it is a third–degree felony in the State of Texas,” said Aldine ISD Chief Craig Goralski.
Gorlaski added that the consequences for students making false threats range from a stay in a juvenile center to jail time. He reminds parents that criminal responsibility begins at age 10. So individuals from 10 years of age and older are legally responsible for their own actions.
Officials said the campaign would take a village to be successful. They are asking parents to sit down with their children and have this talk. Officials also recommended that students who see threats should report them to authorities, but refrain from sharing them with others to prevent fear and panic.
Public assistance is crucial to efforts to curb these hoax threats. If there is any reason to believe the safety of others is at risk, we ask that the public immediately contact their local police department by calling 9-1-1, or contact the FBI Houston Field Office at 713-693-5000.
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