Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said his county has been especially hit hard by school threats in the wake of a mass shooting earlier this year in Parkland, Fla.
Smith said 51 people in Macomb County have been charged with making a false threat of terrorism since the shooting in Florida that killed 17 people and wounded 17 more on Feb. 14.
Of those 51 people, 40 of them are juveniles. The other 11 are seniors in high school, Smith said. That's way more than the average amount of such charges issued by Smith's office during the course of a school year.
"Normally through the course of a school year we get about 17 charges of false threat or threats of terrorism. Through a nine-month school year it's basically two every month, just under two a month," said Smith. "Well, since Parkland, which has been seven weeks or so, we have charged 51 defendants with false threat of terrorism. That's 40 juveniles and 11 adults. When I say adults, these are 17-year-old high school seniors who are charged as adults."
Law enforcement vows to stop threats
Smith was speaking Tuesday morning during a joint news conference with the U.S. Attorney and other Michigan law enforcement agencies who have pledged to "vigorously" investigate and prosecute anyone who makes threats against schools.
"These seniors are not graduating from high school, they're going to have a tough time getting into college, getting financial aid. Every one of them is facing a 20-year felony," Smith said. "Nobody out there is saying, 'Well, they're just kids being kids.' Those days are long since over with."
Many of the threats have been made through social media. Smith and his colleagues are calling on parents to step in and help police students' social media behaviors.
"I urge all of you to talk to your kids about the proper use of social media, to point out what's going to happen to them because nothing good can come from this," he said. "The last thing I want to do is prosecute a 16-year-old kid for doing something dumb. But, who's to say that this one is a false threat? We're going to make sure every single one of them is a false threat."
In one such instance, 18-year-old Timothy Evans was charged with making terrorist threats or false report of terrorism against a high school in Utica. Utica Community Schools notified police about a credible threat on social media against Utica High School which prompted officers to conduct a search of the student’s home.
Police said various firearms were found in the home, along with ammunition.
Detroit police chief on school threats: 'It's going to stop'
In March, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said since the shooting in Parkland a total of 40 threats against schools were received by the Detroit Police Department: two bombing threats, 34 shooting threats, and four threats to shoot and bomb.
Moreover, Craig said his department received 23 reports of threats against schools in the past 24 hours.
"It's going to stop," Craig said. "These type of threats cause significant fear."
Craig said in some of the incidents parents encouraged the children to make threats. He said police detained three juveniles and arrested one adult in connection to recent school threats.
"Regardless of your age or the method you use, we will find you and we will arrest you," he said.