In the wake of the deadly mass shootings El Paso and Dayton, there have been 29 arrests around the country for hoax threats according to the DOJ and dozens of more threats have been reported. The spate of hoaxes has forced the Oklahoma branch of the FBI to relaunch its fake threat awareness campaign.
In Oklahoma, police were forced to investigate an online threat to Yukon, Edmond and Oklahoma City. School officials at Sequoyah Middle School in Edmond had to punish a student who warned there was a gun in the building.
The FBI said while the threats aren't meant to be serious, they take them just as serious as any other crime.
“Law enforcement doesn't take hoax threats or false threats as a joke. We investigate them fully to determine their credibility and you could be liable for this the rest of your life,” FBI spokesperson Andera Anderson said.
Posting or making a threat toward a public place is a felony, especially if it's made online. A charge for making a terroristic threat, which is what prosecutors call threats real or fake, can carry a 20-year prison sentence depending on state and federal sentences. According to a release from the FBI, hoaxes are often a drain on resources and can distract agents from working on real crimes.
For victims of threats, the FBI recommends immediate reporting and refraining from sharing or spreading the threat. Agents said sharing will likely spread panic before law enforcement has a chance to investigate. They also warn parents and guardians fake threats can often be a “cry for attention or a way to get revenge or exert control,” which recent studies have shown can be early warning signs of future real threats.
The FBI recommends parents and guardians talk to their child or seek professional guidance if their child makes a false threat.
Read Related: FBI Launches #ThinkBeforeYouPost Campaign To Curb Hoax Threats