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North Dakota schools, law enforcement look to learn from swatting threats

Schools around the state received swatting threats last Thursday, Oct. 13. Schools and local law enforcement are happy about how they responded, but are also taking it as a learning opportunity.

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Grand Forks Police Respond to swatting threat at Red River High School.
Jim Johnson / WDAZ News
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FARGO — Schools around the state of North Dakota are praising the responses from law enforcement after many were hit with swatting calls last week.

Several schools were targeted with calls reporting fake school shootings that produced a large law enforcement response.

From Fargo to Bismarck to Jamestown to Grand Forks, at least eight schools across the state felt the scare of prank calls deemed "swatting."

"(Swatting) makes a claim or a threat that something bad is happening at some place, kind of forcing police involvement," said Lt. Bill Ahlfeldt from the Fargo Police Department.

In Jamestown, the threat came in just after 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13. More than 40 officers responded.

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"Like any active shooter response, the first thing is to go in and then try to stop whatever damage is being done," said Jamestown Police Department Chief Scott Edinger.

For many schools, a large response from police was the plan of action. Fargo and West Fargo, however, were able to sniff-out the hoax rather quickly before sending a police presence to the schools.

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"Our dispatch center automatically started seeing some things with this phone call that appeared a little bit suspicious, a little bit out of the ordinary, and prompted a specific response for us to determine rather quickly that this was more than likely a hoax," Ahlfeldt said.

While the schools are praising law enforcement, police say since there was no threat detected, they are using it as a valuable learning experience.

"And yesterday, if anything good came out of it, this was a much more realistic incident than what we can do in (...) training or in an exercise," Edinger said.

"This is a good test of what we as an agency can do, not only on our neighborhood service patrol side, but also our school resource officer side," Ahlfeldt added.

This all comes as schools work to assure parents their kids are safe in cases like these.

"If you're worried about a scenario, reach out because the adults want to be responsive to that, to be as proactive as we can," said Catherine Gillach, associate superintendent of Grand Forks Secondary Education.

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All of the police departments WDAY News spoke with are meeting with their school districts about the events and response. Each department continues to investigate the threats.

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