Social media threat puts Del. campuses on alert

 

DOVER — Local colleges and universities, along with law enforcement, remained on alert Monday as the FBI and ATF investigated a nonspecific threat that was posted on social media regarding Philadelphia area schools.

The Delaware State Police acknowledged the ongoing situation and said precautions were being taken in the First State as well.

“The Delaware State Police take any and all threats seriously and will take necessary steps to direct resources where necessary to provide the coverage and to assist college campuses,” Sgt. Richard Bratz said.

Campuses in Dover include Delaware State University, Wesley College, Wilmington University, and Delaware Technical Community College.

While DSU spokesman Carlos Holmes described campus activity as “just another school day” early Monday afternoon, he noted that the campus community was alerted to monitor surroundings and report any suspicious activity to campus police or by calling 911.

Mr. Holmes said DSU “appreciated” being notified by the FBI regarding the threat to Philadelphia area schools, and the university issued an alert to call students, faculty, staff and administrators passing along as much information as possible.

According to Wesley’s Director of Safety and Security Walt Beaupre, “We’ve asked our campus community to be alert and report any suspicious activities to Wesley Security at (302) 736-2436 or Dover police at (302) 736-7111.”

Officials sent out a “Security Notice to the Wesley campus community, “making them aware of the potential threat to colleges and universities in the Philadelphia area,” Mr. Beaupre.

‘Heightened awareness’

Mr. Beaupre described the mood on campus as “A heightened sense of awareness among our students, faculty and staff.”

According to Mr. Beaupre, Wesley contacted the Dover Police Department, which increased its patrol presence in and around campus.

Wesley received notification of the potential threat through the Delaware State Police Information and Analysis Center, Mr. Beaupre said.

Mr. Beaupre said Wesley’s campus safety system is well equipped to protect students, faculty, and staff.

“Yes,” he said. “We work very close with and have an outstanding relationship with Dover police. They respond immediately to our requests. Last week we also conducted a test of our emergency alert system, which we use to notify our campus community of any immediate threats.”

Director of Public Safety Tim Winstead said Delaware Technical Community College, “has existing emergency operations and response plans in place for variety of critical incidents.”

DTCC collaborated with state police, Wilmington, Georgetown, and Dover police, to protect its statewide campuses with increased patrols.

Also, DTCC’s own security team of public safety officers and constables were at work, many who are retired police officers with extensive law enforcement experience, Mr. Winstead said.

“Training for constables has included response to active shooter scenarios,” Mr. Winstead said. At the top of its wilmu.edu website, Wilmington University released the following information:

“Wilmington University On Sunday, October, 4th, the FBI issued a warning to all Philadelphia area colleges and universities about a recent social media posting, threatening violence at a Philadelphia area college or university on Monday, October, 5th 2015. This threat is not specific to any college or university.

“As always, students should be alert and report any suspicious activities by calling 911 and University Safety.”

In a message posted on the University of Delaware’s website, Acting President Nancy M. Targett said the school would follow a regular schedule on Monday.

“The safety of this University community is my top priority,” Ms. Targett said in the message.

“We are continuing to work with local and federal law enforcement agencies regarding a nonspecific threat directed broadly at Philadelphia-area universities. Unfortunately, such threats are not uncommon across the country.

“At this time, there is no further information. If there are any changes in the situation, we will act accordingly and update the UD community …”

‘Abundance of caution’

The FBI notified schools of the threat with a Monday deadline, and continued to investigate with the ATF, federal, state and local authorities. An FBI statement regarding the matter included:

“Out of an abundance of caution, the FBI Philadelphia Field Office notified local colleges and universities of a social media posting which threatened violence at a Philadelphia-area college or university for Monday, October 5.

“No specific college or university was identified in the posting. We encourage students, faculty, and employees at area colleges and universities to follow the guidance of their campus security officials.

“The FBI will continue to work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate threats of violence, and, as always, we ask the public to report suspicious activity to law enforcement.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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