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School threats spiking across Virginia

VIRGINIA – In light of the deadly school shooting in Florida, student safety is gaining more attention. 

Locally, we've seen a string of threats and lockdowns.

From Alleghany to Henry County and areas in between, law enforcement and school officials have been on alert more than usual. 

"Anytime you have some type of mass disaster, people tend to copycat that," said Dr. Tod Burke, criminologist and former police officer.

Overall, the number of threats at schools in Virginia is increasing. According to the Department of Criminal Justice Services, in 2016, 63 percent of schools had to conduct threat assessments. In 2017, that number jumped to 66 percent. Dr. Burke says the patterns are alarming, especially for law enforcement.

"All threats are treated seriously, so it's a drain really on manpower and resources for law enforcement," said Burke.

Each time a threat is called in, or written on a wall or posted on social media, officers hit the ground running.

"They're checking for weapons, they're checking social media posts. They need to interview not only that individual but often the parents, friends, acquaintances," said Burke.

In today's society, ignoring or brushing off a threat of any kind is not an option, no matter how much time and effort it takes to track the threat down, credible or not. Dr. Burke says most of these copycat threats are not credible.

"This is no joke. When you're doing something like this, people are treating it as a real threat. It's affecting everyone," said Burke.

As we've seen, a threat that started as a joke or distraction can lead to school suspension or in many cases, time behind bars.

Rumors have been swirling around threats directed at Radford City Schools. We spoke with the superintendent and he said after days of investigating, nothing credible has been found.

Radford Schools emailed out this letter Wednesday.

Good afternoon,

Yesterday and today at Radford High School, we received concerns from both students and parents regarding potential threats made towards the school. After thorough investigation with the Radford Police Department that included Threat Assessment meetings, multiple interviews of students and staff as well as a review of social media sites that were mentioned in the concerns, we have found that there are no viable threats and Radford High School and John Dalton Intermediate continue to be safe for students and staff. Please know that student, staff and school community safety is a priority in our school division and that we continue to follow all policies, procedures and plans when it comes to school safety measures.

Thank you and have a great evening!

Rob Graham