PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island is one of many states where officials say hoax bomb threats to schools are increasing.
The highest-profile case of threats at schools in Rhode Island happened in January and February, when a string disrupted schools across the state for days. A 16-year-old student at Rogers High School in Newport was arrested and charged with many of the threats in February, but state police say the investigation is still active.
Maj. Joseph Philbin said state police are involved in every bomb threat in the state and the threats are tough to track down because people can use the internet to mask the call's origin.
"We do deal with so many more than we ever did, I'd say 10 times the amount," Philbin said. "They really scare the heck out of the parents. It's a tough thing to calm them down."
In nearly every case, it's a hoax that strains resources, he said.
Such violent or disruptive threats are increasing nationwide , according to police, school employees, security consultants and others, blamed sometimes on local students and sometimes on outsiders seeking to cause disruptions or a big emergency response. Few agencies formally track the threats, meaning no formal accounting of the collective costs.
In Rhode Island, communities including Providence, Bristol, Newport, Warwick, East Providence, Cranston, Tiverton and Middletown received threats during the winter. In many cases, schools were evacuated or large numbers of parents kept their children home.
The 16-year-old boy, whose identity was not released, was initially blamed for many of the threats. He was arrested on 15 counts of making bomb threats and false reports, two counts of extortion and blackmail and one count of access to a computer for fraudulent purposes.
His lawyer, Maurice Cusick, said last week that most of those charges were dropped because "they had nothing to do with my client." He said the case was resolved amicably and the boy is now on probation.
The arrest did not end the problem in Rhode Island. Ten days after the 16-year-old was arrested, high schools in Middletown, Portsmouth and Barrington were received bomb threats on the same day.