Increase in False Tips & Weapons on Campus Cause Disruptions to Districts Nationwide
Since the start of the new school year, communities across the country have experienced concerning events that serve as a reminder that all of us must remain vigilant in our efforts to identify risks and threats and increase the layers of safety preparedness and training to keep our schools and children safe.
These troublesome signals include a significant increase in guns and weapons in our schools, as well as false reports of threats requiring the dispatch of law enforcement, a trend referred to as “swatting.”
As reported by the Wall Street Journal, based on data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 220 gun seizures in August and September across 35 states, up from 128 in the same period last year and 132 in 2019. In this same timeframe, Navigate360 has seen a similar increase in alerts from digital and social scanning tools that reinforce these statistics, with weapons-related discussions and activity up 73%. Additionally, anonymous tipline calls involving weapons on campus are up 71% compared to this time last year.
This increase in real incidents is undisputed and worrisome, especially considering the tragic end to last year’s school year. At the same time, we’re also observing a dramatic increase in false and fraudulent tips known as swatting, bad actor reports and spam, all of which are causing major disruptions to school districts nationwide.
Before getting into what can be done, it’s important to define each of these for clarity and accuracy.
Defining False Tips
In general terms, there are three core types of false or fraudulent actions taking place:
Swatting is generally defined as the action or practice of making a bogus tip or 911 call to emergency services to bring about the dispatch of police officers to a particular address. Swatting typically involves a fictitious report of a violent or dangerous crime or violent act in progress.
Bad Actor Tips are generally considered to be bogus tips designed to discredit an organization and/or initiate an unwarranted investigation. These tips typically involve fictitious reports of are unfounded reports that are not relevant or supported by any evidence. Spam tips may not be criminal in nature and are often the result of people seeking attention or suffering from a delusional belief.
|Swatting||A call or tip that claims, “There is a shooter at the high school,” when in fact there is no shooter at the high school.|
|Bad Actor||A tip that claims, “A student is going to shoot up the high school tomorrow,” when in fact the tipster has no reason to believe there is going to be a shooter at the high school. Bad actors may also use bogus tips to target innocent students.|
|Spam||A tip that states, “All of these school shootings are the result of the COVID vaccines.” In spam tips, the reporter may actually believe the fictitious tip.|
The rise in guns and other weapons on campus as well as the increase in both real and false reports of violent incidents have resulted in legitimate concern and anxiety within school communities. Parents and students are on edge, and we are putting law enforcement, teachers and others in harm’s way.
To help combat these issues and rebuild lost confidence, Navigate360 has been actively working with law enforcement, school officials and community-based Crime Stoppers organizations to find solutions to these problems. Here are seven things you can do to help:
1. Maintain a prevention-first mindset. Everyone needs to know what warning signs to look for, how to intervene and how to alert trusted adults and authorities. If you’re not sure what qualifies as a reportable behavior, here are some common and real examples of those that warrant reporting, according to our partners at Sandy Hook Promise:
- Acts of violence, with or without weapons
- Verbal or physical abuse, assault or harassment
- Sexual abuse, assault or harassment
- Threats seen on social media
- Bullying, fighting, harassment or intimidating behaviors
- Bragging about weapons or a planned attack
- Depression, anxiety or loss of self-control
- Hopelessness, excessive guilt or self-control
- Reckless behavior, theft and petty crimes
- Social isolation or withdrawal
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Suicide threats, cutting or other self-harm
- Any other troubling situation or behavior
2. Increase your knowledge. Training increases our knowledge and critical thinking to recognize concerning behaviors, mitigate risk and learn personal safety skills like Situational Awareness, Stop the Bleed and Options-Based Active Shooter techniques. These skills are perishable if not reinforced, and it is incumbent upon us to develop our knowledge and train in an age- and ability-appropriate way.
3. Participate as a community and be the “accountable one.” Most potential threats are identified prior to and outside of law enforcement response. Everyone in our schools and communities must work to support and leverage their Crime Stopper agencies and See Something Say Something programs.
4. Leave no stone unturned by leveraging advanced tip line and digital media scanning technology with both human and advanced model assistance to prioritize threats, tips and alerts. While the specific assessment processes are not released to the public, there are procedures and technology used to determine the validity of tips and alerts. It is important to note that at no time will a tip be ignored.
5. Follow up and intervene. Ensure there is a multidisciplinary team and evidence-based processes in place to evaluate threats and differentiate those that are transient from those that are substantive.
6. Secure firearms in a safe and proper manner. We can make our homes, schools and communities safer through proper storage techniques and by ensuring those who need to handle a gun know how to handle it.
7. Do not develop a false sense of security. In many tragic instances, failures are often human: Lack of policy, procedure, training, people, and a mindset of “it can’t happen here.” With many false reports and new forms of threats, it is easy to slip into the Coopers Color Code of Awareness category of white.
In closing, it is vital to remember that whole-child safety takes the whole community. We all play a role in protecting our schools and our students, and those efforts are stronger when we work together.
Stay safe, stay alert and be kind –
Navigate360 CEO & Father of Five