New Mexico saw a statewide increase in false schools threats in 2022, and although school officials in Eddy County reported few or none this year, they said they were prepared to investigate any hoax that could threaten the safety of students. increased threats from 2021 to 2022 at other schools across New Mexico, law enforcement officials said.
Hoax threats increased throughout New Mexico from two during the first six months of 2021, per records from the FBI’s Albuquerque Division, compared to 19 so far this year.
“It’s not unusual to see an uptick in hoax threats after a mass shooting in another part of the country,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Raul Bujanda.
He said the Bureau investigates threats sent via social media, text messages or email to schools across New Mexico.
“Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges,” Bujanda said in the news release.
Albuquerque FBI Spokesperson Frank Fisher said the federal agency was not releasing the specific districts threatened.
“We would ask all parents and students throughout the state to pay attention to our message about hoax threats because whether urban or rural, law enforcement takes all threats seriously and perpetrators could face serious consequences,” he said.
Carlsbad Municipal Schools (CMS) Dr. Gerry Washburn said the district had not received any hoax threats in 2022 and schools did not need a lockdown or cancellations.
But he said the district will work with local law enforcement to respond to future threats, and has done so in the past.
In past years, he said CMS received around five to 10 hoax threats that were not deemed credible.
Washburn said once a threat is sent in, the Carlsbad Police Department and Eddy County Sheriff’s Office were notified.
“The Police Department and Sheriff’s Office always do extra patrols when we have one as an abundance of caution,” he said.
Washburn said CMS treated every threat or rumor as credible as law enforcement investigates and determines how students should be treated based on their findings.
School hoaxes were rare at Artesia Public Schools, but did occur in recent years, local police said.
“We would have to deal with these hoaxes about once or twice a year,” said Artesia Police Spokesman Cmdr. Pete Quinones.
“We had none at the end of school year of 2021, when kids were able to get back to school (after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted), and had none in the 2021-2022 school year,” he said.
Quinones said one student was charged several years ago with making threats to APS.
He said Artesia Police Department’s School Resource Officer conducts formal investigations and determine if a threat was real or a hoax.
The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) encouraged school districts across the state to follow orders during hoax threats.
“The PED encourages school districts to report all crimes to local law enforcement agencies and to otherwise follow their own, required school safety plan to keep the school community safe,” said Judy Robinson, spokesperson.