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Authorities warn about consequences of hoax school threats

(KTAR Photo/Mark Carlson)

PHOENIX — The FBI, local police and prosecutors have launched a program aimed at reminding the public that posting online hoax threats that lead to school shutdowns can result in dire consequences.

The “Think Before You Post” program spreads the message that threats made through social media or via text message are no joking matter.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said anybody caught posting threatening hoaxes will be prosecuted and liable for costs.

“If you make a false threat that requires a response from emergency agencies, you can be charged with the cost of those agencies having to respond to that false threat,” he said.

That’s likely to be several thousand dollars.

Michael DeLeon of the FBI in Phoenix said online hoaxes are both wasteful and draining on law enforcement.

“Hoax threats put a drain on limited resources,” he said. “It wastes taxpayer dollars and puts first responders in unnecessary danger.”

DeLeon said people post hoaxes online for reasons spanning from revenge to attention-seeking.

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said one recent hoax threat resulted in 1,300 of 1,500 students not showing up for class at one school.

“A hoax that prompted this came from a student who simply didn’t want to go to school,” she said.

Criminal charges for posting a hoax threat may result in prison time and fines.

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