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MA Colleges New Danger: Bomb and Shooting Threats Cause Evacuations

Thursday, October 16, 2014

 

Assumption College is the third Massachusetts college this month to have some form of violent threat sent to them, calling local attention to the nationwide problem of bomb and shooting threats.

An increasingly popular way of dealing with such a threat on college campuses throughout the United States is to evacuate the campus to ensure that whether the threat is real or faked, students, faculty, and staff will remain safe.

“We have been following our existing protocol in dealing with this bomb threat,” said Mike Guilfoyle, Executive Director of Communications at Assumption College. “College officials – in consultation with authorities – deemed that the threat was serious in nature and that an evacuation was needed.”

In addition to Assumption College – which was shut down for almost a day – the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts was evacuated on October 6th for a few hours after a bomb threat was phoned-in. Harvard University also dealt with a similar problem – someone emailed many of the students on campus threatening to shoot them – on October 3rd, but the school did not chose to evacuate their students because it was deemed that the email was not credible or a threat.

A Troubling Trend

Although tracking the amount of bomb and other violent threats in the United States against colleges is hard, as there are no organizations that keep track of the data, many do feel that violent threats toward colleges are on the rise.

Evacuations are becoming an increasingly common way to deal with bomb threats at colleges and universities because colleges would rather be safe than sorry in dealing with the lives of their students.

It may not be to the degree that occurred in 2012 – where four college campuses throughout the United States happened in four days – but many local and statewide officials and citizens are becoming increasingly concerned about this trend, regardless of whether or not some if not all of these calls could be college pranks.

“This is certainly part of a growing trend,” said Bill MCCarthy, a criminal justice professor at Quinsigamond Community College and a former Connecticut State Trooper. “Its not surprising that we are having problems with it here; I remember an instance a few years ago where colleges down south were facing a similar problem. Whether this is a college prank, a criminal, delinquent, or even a terrorist, these threats pose a real threat to the safety of students. I am glad that Assumption College took the threat seriously, whether it is a hoax or not.”

Determining A Cause

In addition to evacuating the college or university in question and determining whether or not there is a bomb on the campus, college public safety – usually in conjunction with the State Police and in some cases the FBI – try to determine who it was that called or emailed in the threat and why exactly they chose to do so.

While in some cases it is nothing more than a college prank or a student trying to get out of a final exam, the authorities must treat every instance like it is a true threat. After all, it is when people let their guard down that real damage can be done.

“Two main possible reasons are that some are coming from the same source who, whatever the agenda, has decided to make the threats frequently,” said David Procopio, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts State Police. “Another possible contributing factor is copycat offenders. Whoever is doing them should be warned that numerous resources have been, and will be, devoted to identifying and prosecuting those responsible.”

 

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