Cybersafe Parent: Lt. Matt Hill on school threats

Lt. Matt Hill with the Vadnerburgh County Sheriff's Office joined us on Thursday evening to talk with us about recent school threats and the role social media has played in them.

Amy Mangold: Eyewitness News continues our Cybersafe Parent initiative tonight and with so many school threats taking place across the Tri-State, we're looking at the role social media plays in those threats. Shelley Kirk is live from our call center at the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office. Let's go live to her now. Shelley.

Shelley Kirk: Well, Amy, this is certainly a topic that has the interest of parents in the Tri-State -- as we're all concerned about the safety of our kids. And we have a call center here tonight -- taking comments and questions from parents and community members just concerned about this whole issue of the cyberworld and how our kids can navigate it more safely. Now, what we've really seen a lot lately and what you just reported on in those past stories -- the social media threats to our schools. We want to bring in a member of our panel here. Lt. Matt Hill of the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office, thanks for joining us Lieutenant. Now, you actually worked on one of the investigations that brought about an arrest of a student. This was a threat against North and Cedar Hall. This started on Snapchat, right? Tell us about that.

Lt. Matt Hill: That's correct. The threat was made via Snapchat. There was a Snap that was screenshotted and sent to one of the teachers at the school, supposing to be concerned about their safety. Detectives with the sheriff's office went in and were able to interview some of the people involved and weren't getting the answers that we were wanting. From there, we were able to make contact with Snapchat. They were able to give us account information that was relevant to the investigation and we were able to take that information and contact Time Warner and get further information which turned out to be the information led us to the person who initially made the report. And further interview of that person led to an arrest.

Shelley Kirk: So is it very common to work with the social media outlet itself?

Lt. Matt Hill: Absolutely. We would not be able to do our jobs and investigate these types of cases without cooperation from social media providers. 

Shelley Kirk: It seems like it happened very quickly. What kind of message does this send to students that might be thinking of making threats like that?

Lt. Matt Hill: I hope the message that's received is 'we will find you and we will arrest you' if you do this. 

Shelley Kirk: Now, Snapchat you were telling me before, not only in this case -- it was a threat situation. But do you deal with that quite a bit with students maybe making some bad decisions-- maybe sending pictures that they shouldn't be sending. And you're able to investigate that on Snapchat as well. 

Lt. Matt Hill: Absolutely. Again, Snapchat works very well with law enforcement in most cases and they provide us with the information we need for investigation. 

Shelley Kirk: Now it's one thing though that students think that they can get away with because supposedly it goes away. Those pictures go away. Not so necessarily true?

Lt. Matt Hill: Umm, unfortunately, people still don't realize 20 years into the Internet that once it's out there, it's out there and never really goes away. Umm, over the course of my investigations, I've had numerous cases of recovering information that was supposed to have been deleted and gone.

Shelley Kirk: Lastly, what should parents know? What should they do to help keep our kids safe?

Lt. Matt Hill: I say this all the time, talk to your children. Get on their phones. The phone belongs to you. Look at it as often as possible to know what's on there.

Shelley Kirk: And don't let them tell you, don't do it. 

Lt. Matt Hill: Right, that's your phone.

Shelley Kirk: Absolutely. Thank you Lt. Hill from the Vanderburgh County Sheriff's Office.

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(This story was originally published on February 23, 2018)

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