Just after 10 a.m. today, Riverside Elementary School officials reported receiving a phone threat which was similar to previous threats made against the Princeton area schools in recent weeks.
The threat was described as a computer generated male voice that made a general threat against the school and students. Princeton police officers immediately responded to the school and conducted a thorough check of the school’s interior and exterior and found that everything was safe and secure. The school was on lockdown status during the process. Police personnel will continue to make security checks on the school throughout the day.
One hour later, Johnson Park School received a similar threat involving a computer generated male voice making a general threat against the school and students. Princeton police officers immediately responded to the school and conducted a thorough check of the school’s interior and exterior, and discovered that everything was safe and secure. The school was on lockdown status during the process. Police personnel will continue to make security checks on the school throughout the day.
Schools in other New Jersey municipalities received similar calls today. Robert Wood Johnson Hospital also received a call. Within the last several weeks more than half a dozen bogus threats were made threatening Princeton schools, downtown businesses, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, and the Quaker Bridge Mall.
The Princeton Police Department continues to partner with state and federal agencies in investigating the source of these threats. Because of the technology used to make the calls, law enforcement experts have been unable to trace the calls.
Following is a letter from Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane to parents today:
Today, the Princeton Public Schools experienced two more incidents of “swatting,” or false reporting designed to elicit a response from a SWAT team.
The first incident came in the form of a phone call to Riverside Elementary School at 10:03 a.m. The call was generated by computer and made a general threat about harming children. The police were immediately called and all of our district schools were directed to implement Shelter In Place protocols. The police arrived within minutes and conducted a thorough sweep of the school both inside and out. They found nothing suspicious, and at 10:35 they officially cleared the building.
The second incident occurred at approximately 11:00 a.m. and was directed toward Johnson Park Elementary. The caller used a computer generated voice indicating that he was on the roof with a weapon and intended to harm children. Because of the more specific nature of the threat, the school instituted lockdown procedures, in which students and staff remained behind locked doors with window shades drawn. The police were immediately called, and more than 15 of them conducted a thorough search of the building, grounds, and surrounding woods. At 11:34 a.m., the police officially cleared the building and the lockdown was lifted.
Our police do not believe there is a credible threat today at Riverside, JP or any other school in Princeton. The police are, however, remaining on site at both schools through the remainder of the day and have promised a presence at each of our other schools as well.
Today marks the fifth and sixth incidents of “swatting” the Princeton Public Schools have experienced in recent weeks. Please know that we approach each one with the utmost seriousness. Please know, as well, that the police are continuing their investigation and are working closely with both state and federal agencies. Police Chief Nick Sutter will be briefed later this week by the cyber-crimes experts investigating the incidents. He will then work with them to arrange a public meeting to update the entire community.
I want to thank the police, our administrators, and our staff for their prompt and professional response to the difficult situation we experienced today. I also want to thank our parents and students for remaining calm. All of us are collaborating to ensure the safety of our children and a productive learning environment in each of our schools.
Dismissal will proceed as normal this afternoon, as will after-school activities.
Thank you all for your continued patience and understanding.