Chief: Springetts PD better prepared after lessons learned from school threats
Springettsbury Township Police Chief Dan Stump said part of the difficulty in identifying the teen who made threats against Central York schools was caused by the fact that it took so long for someone to alert authorities.
The two social-media threats made on the morning of Feb. 20 were shared "so many times" on social media before anyone thought to tell police, he said.
"Instead of forwarding (or sharing) these posts, the responsible thing to do is to notify law enforcement right away," Stump said. "I will say I feel like this community ... now knows what to do next time."
Stump said tracking down the Central York Middle School student behind the threats to harm other students wasn't as easy as some members of the public thought it should have been.
"We were fighting a technology crime that we couldn't use technology to solve," he said, noting a number of people sent them suggestions including tracking the threat-maker's online user name and computer IP address.
Stump said investigators obviously knew to do those things right away. But identifying the girl turned out to be more difficult, he said, adding that he could not specifically say why at this point.
'Over 200 interviews': It was old-fashioned police work that allowed detectives to solve the crime, he said.
"We probably did over 200 interviews," Stump said, to peel away "layer after layer" and get to the bottom of the threats.
He said Springetts detectives and top brass worked 14- to 16-hour days to identify who made the two threats, with critical help from local, state and federal agencies.
"Northern Regional Police gave us two guys," Stump said, plus a third officer as needed. "York County Detectives gave us quite a few detectives, and they worked long hours."
The chief said that gave his department about a 20-person task force to devote to the threats.
"We ran that hard and strong, and kept skeleton crews working throughout the night," Stump said.
Police have said the girl made the two threats because she didn't want to go to school.
Stump said she will be charged in juvenile court with making terroristic threats and that charges will be filed in the next few days. The girl acted alone, he said.
The threats: According to the chief, his officers went to Central York High School the morning of Feb. 20, after someone reported a possible threat being made about the school the day before.
"We were able to establish ... that there was no substance to it," he said, and it was "blown out of proportion." That tip came from someone overhearing one student tell another not to come to school on Tuesday.
"Just to put people at ease, we had a heavy (police) presence at the schools — especially the high school, where the perceived threat was made," Stump said.
While police were in the schools Tuesday, a threat was made on social media about 9 a.m., that because police were at the high school, the threat-maker was going to shoot children at the middle and elementary schools, according to the chief.
"That's very specific, very direct and was feeding off what we were doing to protect the school," he said.
'Luxury of hindsight': About 11 a.m., the threat-maker posted a second threat on social media, basically saying she'd be coming to the schools "all week," Stump said.
"We treated it like it was somebody who truly wanted to do harm to our students," he said, because they had to assume the worst.
"We're not going to take these things lightly — and we can't, because of what you see happening across the country too often in our schools," Stump told The York Dispatch. "We don't have the luxury of hindsight in the moment."
The chief said every threat must be and will be evaluated individually.
"We learned a lot from this," he said. "We are better prepared to handle something like this in the future."
Stump said it was his recommendation to Central York School District that it close all the schools while threats were investigated. The district was closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and reopened Monday, Feb. 26.
"We had officers at every school," the chief said on Monday, and state troopers added to that presence.
"We were there to make sure the kids were safe, to ease tensions and to welcome them back," Stump said.
Regular training: Stump said his officers are regularly trained for active-shooter incidents and said his department works closely with school officials to conduct in-school drills on a regular basis.
"We are prepared if it happens," the chief said.
He noted that township Officer Scott Altland serves as the school-resource officer for the high school and middle school and is based at both schools.
Altland carries a firearm, the chief confirmed.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.