In early April, a string of swatting incidents began emerging across New York state schools. Swatting is the action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.
Mohawk Valley schools have been affected in these incidents including schools such as Rome Free Academy, Proctor High School, and Herkimer Jr/Sr High School. On April 4, Herkimer College students and staff received an email regarding these incidents. The emailed stated there was no direct threat to the college.
“At first the email scared me,” said General Studies student Aleah Oldfield. “But after reading it I learned there was nothing to be afraid of.”
Rebecca Ruffing began working at Herkimer College in 1998 and has been Director of Public Relations since 2008. A part of Ruffing’s job is to provide information on possible emergencies to students and staff.
“Every situation is taken seriously no matter what,” stated Ruffing.
At Herkimer College there are a number of safety tools in place to keep students and staff protected and aware of any possible threats. One tool used is New York Alert. New York Alert is used by SUNY schools across the state to warn of possible threats. NY Alert is capable of texting, calling, emailing and even faxing.
“New York Alert is only used in true emergencies” Ruffing said when asked about the safety tool.
In an effort to stop these swatting calls New York State lawmakers are working to create a bill to make these calls a felony. If this bill is passed the aggressor will face legal consequences. If they are over eighteen they will receive a minimum of three years in prison and a fine of $35,000. If they are under eighteen they will require ten days in juvenile detention and a fine of $35,000.
This is currently an ongoing investigation as law enforcement is still working to find the perpetrators.