In response to several threats made toward area schools in recent weeks — and a broader climate including mass shootings in Texas and beyond — the FBI and numerous local law enforcement personnel gathered in Bryan on Thursday morning for a news conference designed to encourage the public to help deter threats made to schools and other public spaces.
Led by the FBI, a coalition of safety entities launched a new public awareness campaign titled “#ThinkBeforeYouPost: It’s Not A Joke” at the County Administration Building.
“We need the public’s help and parents’ help and teachers’ help. Public safety is paramount,” said Ed Michel, the FBI assistant special agent in charge based in the bureau’s Houston office. Michel said that there have been five threats toward public spaces in the Bryan-College Station metro area in recent days, with 20 more occurring in the Houston area.
Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk said clues and indicators exist in advance of most acts of mass violence. Kirk said that he is sometimes asked about the difference between law enforcement treatment of a juvenile or an adult who makes a threat of violence.
“There is none,” Kirk said. “A dangerous threat is a dangerous threat, and it’ll be approached by law enforcement as such regardless of the age of the perpetrator.”
Kirk also said that Crimestoppers and an app called P3Tips provide people with avenues to report concerning or suspicious behavior and/or rhetoric to law enforcement anonymously.
“The school kids in Brazos County can use that app to share anonymously any information that’s going on on their campus,” Kirk said.
Multiple speakers uttered the refrain undergirding the campaign and called for teachers, parents, family members students and friends to internalize the notion that Internet hoaxes and other threats are no laughing matter.
Brazos County District Attorney Jarvis Parsons said that “whether they are joking or not, we take these threats seriously, and we will do everything in our power under the law to hold these offenders accountable.”
“Our country — and Texas in particular — has been victimized by individuals who have hurt and killed innocent civilians,” he said, citing recent mass shootings in the state. “We all feel it, because if one Texan suffers, we all suffer. … No one deserves to think that the school they entrust their children to will become a war zone, and anyone who makes those threats, joking or not, will be subject to the full penalties that the law will allow.”