School threats tax police manpower and resources

The Windsor Essex area and other parts of the province are experiencing a rash of threats of violence to schools. Police say they take threats seriously and will always respond even though it does take officers away from other calls.

Experts say most cases are youths trying to create chaos

Windsor police responded to a threat of violence at Walkerville Collegiate in 2014. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

When someone noticed a threat scribbled on the wall of a washroom at Sandwich Secondary School in LaSalle last week it resulted in LaSalle Police deploying multiple officers Tuesday to the school as a precaution.

While police say they take these threats seriously and will always respond, it does take officers away from other calls.

"It taxes any police service, big or small, because you have to address it," said Sr. Const. Terry Seguin of the LaSalle Police Service.

After sending officers to the scene, there are addition resources needed for investigations.

"The Criminal Investigation Division gets tasked with investigating. So they may be taken off a project that they're working on because this is going to take precedence," said Seguin.

You threaten the thing that you are angry at or that you don't feel a part of.- Amy Klinger, director of programs, School Safety Network

When police get calls about threats made at school he said it's an "all hands on deck" situation.

LaSalle police sent almost a whole shift of officers to the school Tuesday. They have about 40 officers in LaSalle. Seguin said a platoon of officers can be between seven or eight people, which would be working during one shift.

These incidents usually happen in clusters as a trend for a while, he said.

Police in Sarnia, Ont.,arrested a youth this week for uttering threats because of a threat written on a desk at St. Patrick's High School. OPP in Tecumseh investigated threatening comments made by a student at L'Essor Secondary School in Tecumseh last week. It turned out the student did not pose a threat.

School safety expert Amy Klinger, director of programs for the School Safety Network based in Ohio, said students who make threats usually feel disconnected from the school.

"You threaten the thing that you are angry at or that you don't feel a part of," said Klinger, adding that perpetrators have to be told there are consequences to their actions.

"You're consuming resources. You've got fire, EMS, you've got all kinds of people spending a lot of time and energy and resources while the individual that does it just kind of sits back and admires what they did, because typically there isn't always very significant consequence involved," said Klinger.

She added shooting incidents like the ones in Uvalde, Texas often spawn a series of copycat threats. Sometimes the perpetrator can be serious about their intentions, Klinger said.

Amy Klinger, director of programs for the School Safety Network (Amy Klinger)

Western University criminology professor Michael Arntfield said fortunately most of the threats are not serious.

"If you want to talk about explosives, for instance, I mean, I can count on one hand the number of bombers in history who provided advance notice of their targets," said Arntfield, who agrees with Klinger that the one doing the threatening is getting a thrill out of it.

"They have a range of motivations. I mean, in many cases, there is some fetish like excitement derived from this, much like people who pull false fire alarms. In many cases, it's strictly mischief for mischief sake," he said.

LaSalle Police have not yet identified the perpetrator of the Sandwich threat but they expect to be keeping an eye on the school until the end of the school year.

Seguin said even if the person uttering the threats aren't serious, the crime of uttering threats is serious. It can carry a jail term and a fine depending on the severity.


Dale Molnar

Video Journalist

Dale Molnar is a video journalist at CBC Windsor. He is a graduate of the University of Windsor and has worked in television, radio and print. He has received a number of awards including an RTDNA regional TV news award and a New York Festivals honourable mention.