Law enforcement is weighing the influence of social media and the threats posed by the school

FARMINGTON, NM – Teens writing threatening posts on social media or calling schools are examples of threats of violence near schools and they have become familiar headlines to all of us.

Many of these cases start online.

“It’s just gotten easier to take a picture of a gun on Snapchat,” said Kyle Dowdy, deputy chief of the Farmington Police Department. “We live in a time when students in particular want to document what they do.”

Once it’s out there, that information will spread.

“The images get circulated around the school, and then it becomes a threat to the school,” Dowdy said.

Whether believable or a joke, anything posted online is taken very seriously.

“So then we go into procedures like the lockdown that we might not have had in the past based on the fact that it might be an individual threat,” Dowdy added. “We would have searched that person for a weapon and dealt with it accordingly.”

But social media has changed that.

“With the proliferation of social media, we now have to take precautions, thoroughly assess and thoroughly investigate every threat, and we carry out procedures like banning just so the threat doesn’t escalate into something worse,” Dowdy added.

And more and more of these cases are popping up on law enforcement desks, but for a reason you might not expect.

“We’re investigating more of them, but I don’t know if there are more threats, there’s just a higher volume and a different method of reporting them than in the past,” Dowdy said.

And more information about potential threats is helpful for law enforcement and school districts because students are the eyes and ears of schools.

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“Through Farmington Municipal Schools, we have an anonymous reporting system, and I think the students were fine with reporting threats,” Farmington Municipal Schools Superintendent Cody Diehl said. “They hear more, they see more, we have 11,000 students. So if they see or hear things that are out of place, they need to speak up.”

The latest school threat in San Juan County came on Monday after alleged threats circulated on social media.

The Farmington and Navajo Police Department is actively investigating and an arrest was made.

For related stories: Scarlett Lisjak