More Mass. Schools Go Into Lockdown for Hoax ‘Swatting' Reports

Police in one city said a person with a rifle was reported outside the local high school, but no threat was found

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Schools around Massachusetts on Tuesday were dealing with "swatting" reports for the second day in a row, according to state and local police departments.

Several agencies, including in Ipswich, Haverhill and Fall River, said they received phone calls conveying threats — police in one city said a person with a rifle was reported outside the local high school. But after schools were locked down, no threats were found.



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"For the second consecutive day Massachusetts State Police units are responding to assist local police in multiple communities following bomb and shooting threats to schools. Thus far every call has been determined to be a hoax," state police said in a statement.

The first hoax threats were reported to state police around 10 a.m. They said their Fusion Center was working to find the origin of the hoax calls.

Dedham police briefly locked down the town's high school briefly, and police were called to Concord's Middlesex school, but there were no threats in either case.

Monomoy Regional School District reported a noncredible threat at Harwich Elementary School Tuesday morning was investigated as well.

Police in Haverhill and Fall River said they were told their hoax calls were similar to other ones received across the state.

Among the Massachusetts schools affected in Monday's wave of swatting calls were Charlestown and East Boston high schools in Boston and Amesbury High School.

Classes at several Massachusetts schools were disrupted Monday because of phoned-in threats.

In "swatting" incidents, prank callers report hoax threats that send police swarming to a location. They can be dangerous in and of themselves, since officers are on alert in case there's an active threat, but they also waste resources and can make people accustomed to reports of threats and less likely to respond to real ones.

"My first reaction is the threat picture is evolving," explained Todd McGhee, a law enforcement and security analyst. "It is evolving amongst other real, active shooter incidents as we saw last night at the Michigan State Campus."

McGhee said these hoaxes should still be considered threats, even though targeted violence is not actually taking place.

"To not approach could be catastrophic, so we cannot just ignore a call for service and just say, 'Well, it's most likely a hoax,'" he explained.

He added that how each school district responds depends on several factors, including resources available, what type of plan the school has in place, how many schools are in the district and the level of training.

"The resources are one factor. How many officers are able to be deployed on campus. How many officers are even within a particular police department," he said. "If you have a small-town police department, they're not going to have the resources of the Boston Police, that have over 2,000 police officers."

"These swatting calls tie up a lot of police and emergency resources, potentially diverting those resources away from other emergencies, so we will be investigating in an effort to hold whomever did this accountable," Ipswich Police Chief Paul Nikas said after "swattings" at the local high and middle schools Tuesday. "I am pleased that the emergency protocols we have worked hard to establish were followed, and followed quickly, but I remain concerned about the proliferation of these types of calls across the state."

"Law enforcement is going to use all available resources to investigate a school threat until we determine whether it is real or not. Investigating hoax threats drains law enforcement resources and diverts us from responding to an actual crisis. Hoax threats can shut down schools, cause undue stress and fear to the public, and cost taxpayers a lot of money," Kristen Setera of the FBI's Boston division said in a statement. "We urge the public to remain vigilant, and report any and all suspicious activity and individuals to law enforcement immediately."

McGhee weighed in on whether swatting calls should be reported by news outlets, saying people do need to know.

"In the spirit of transparency, I think that it is essential for good, solid reporting," he said.

Reacting to a wave of "swatting" calls last week in his state, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott called them "an act of terrorism designed to create chaos."

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