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Threat theories

University officials investigate source of bomb scare

Published: Monday, October 22, 2012

Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 01:10

Bomb

Roger Zhang

A mid a slew of recent bomb threats against universities, multiple theories abound behind the motives of the perpetuators, including terrorist plots and a prank game called “SWATing.”

University officials continued to investigate Friday’s bomb threat through the weekend but could not confirm details of motive while the investigation is in its 
early stages.

Texas A&M received the threat around 11 a.m. via email through Computing and Information Services. A Code Maroon was issued at 11:34 a.m., advising students, faculty and staff to evacuate campus on foot. Numerous bomb threats have been popping up at colleges around the U.S. Threats were announced at the University of Texas at Austin, North Dakota State University and Hiram College in northeast Ohio on Sept. 14. The line of threats continued Sept. 17 at Louisiana State University. A bomb threat also caused the evacuation of three buildings Thursday at Texas State University in San Marcos, before Friday’s campus-general bomb threat at A&M.

Investigations have not found a correlation between the threats, with the exception that the game called SWATing may be a linking factor. The object of the game is to send in a bomb threat in the hopes that a SWAT team appears on the scene. If SWAT arrives, the prankster has successfully completed the game, according to Dispatch Magazine On-Line.

The Los Angeles Times reported the SWATing pranks have recently been used to target celebrities, such as Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus.

The pranks to individuals not receiving responses from SWAT teams may be the reason larger populations, such as universities, have become
targets.

“I think it’s messed up that [someone is] causing such a huge interruption in a college to entertain themselves,” said Eli Durel, senior marketing major. “It’s wrong to create fear in the students when it’s unnecessary. We have to respond to them because we don’t know if they’re joking.”

The Dispatch Magazine On-Line also said in most SWATing cases, a SWAT team does not respond simply because there’s no time to assemble a team before the situation is confronted.

Universities have an evacuation plan ready for these types of incidences. A&M responded with an evacuation plan 30 minutes after the threat was received. Students were directed by Code Maroon to exit the campus to the north or south. Droves of students headed north, crossing University Drive to leave the campus.

Crime analyst Radell Smith examined the possibility of someone monitoring evacuation procedures of universities to better design a terrorist attack in an article on
Examiner.com.

“What isn’t a good sign is the fact that schools in three different states are getting these bomb threats around the same time period,” the article stated. “That speaks to the possibility that American colleges are being watched to see how they handle the evacuation of students, how fast they respond to the threat and the emergency response generated by law enforcement in light of the threat of a bomb.”

Gathering the students in what are considered safe spots by the university may prove to be a type of isolation that a terrorist could use against
a university.

Students such as senior math major Tara Obeid said she thinks the mass evacuation process was a good idea.

“Despite the mess [threats] cause, it’s assuring to see that our school knows what precautions to take to ensure safety,” Obeid said.

Lt. Allan Baron of the University Police Department said because of the ongoing investigation nothing could be released regarding those responsible for the bomb threat to A&M.

“Be assured that this investigation is one of our top priorities and we continue to work diligently with several law enforcement agencies to identify the person(s) responsible for this crime and bring them to justice,” Baron said in an email.

Baron said it was too early in the investigation to determine if the threat at A&M was linked to the threats at other universities.

In an email sent Friday afternoon, University President R. Bowen Loftin thanked everyone who evacuated campus safely, as well as the work of the various law enforcement agencies on scene. He said the University will work with law enforcement agencies to pursue those responsible.

“We will not tolerate anonymous threats of this kind,” Loftin said in a press release. “We will work with law enforcement personnel to aggressively continue our investigation, and pursue and prosecute the perpetrator(s) of this senseless crime.”

Both possible motives, whether SWATing or monitoring university responses to bomb threats, pose a threat to universities and the well being of students. Baron said safety is paramount and any threats against the University will be taken seriously.

“The safety of the campus community is a priority,” Baron said. “Any threats that jeopardize the safety of our community are taken seriously. The circumstances surrounding the threat will dictate the appropriate response.”

 

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