After a week of increased police presence at Fairfield High School because of a threat circulated on social media, the city’s police chief said those producing such posts “can’t just hide in the internet” despite the relative anonymity such platforms can afford.
The Fairfield Police Department, as well as the Fairfield City School District, were on a heightened alert this week after a high school with “Fairfield” in the name was threatened with a school shooting via an Instagram post.
With the help of the FBI, the Monday threat was determined not to be credible. However, Fairfield police still maintained an increased presence at all schools around the city last week.
“We’re going to find you, eventually,” Fairfield Police Chief Steve Maynard said.
The threat originated from a European country and did not directly threaten the high school in Butler County’s Fairfield, officials said. The post didn’t point to any particular city, so the multiple Ohio communities with a Fairfield High School — including in Leesburg and Lancaster — were investigating this week.
The post warned students at Fairfield High School not to go to school on Friday, Feb. 15.
Fairfield Police Chief Steve Maynard said unwinding the origin of such posts can be difficult, but investigators are successful in finding people who make threatening or inappropriate posts that require police intervention.
“Whoever authored this post was pretty pointed in what they were going to do and how they were going to do it, so it was very detailed and very graphic,” he said. “We’ve been successful in tracking these people in the past that are doing these things in this area. You can’t just hide in the Internet.”
Threats are no longer assumed to come from local sources, Maynard said.
“People have the ability to reach a much larger audience if they want to induce this kind of panic,” he said. “This stuff becomes viral and it gets spread from one person to the next, one social media network to the next network.”
A Fairfield student reposted the threat, and Maynard said officers had to find and interview that student “to make sure there wasn’t someone who had a tie to the location where this original post came from.”
“The goal in doing all this is trying to track down if there’s anyone in the immediate area who is responsible for the post,” he said.
No one will not be charged with a crime “at this time,” Maynard said.
“The Fairfield City School District appreciates our local law enforcement agencies for their continued support and commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for students and staff,” said Superintendent Billy Smith.
Some parents were confident in the police and school’s response to the threat.
“I do fully trust the police department as far as investigating things quickly, and also the school system in making sure they’re getting the right information to the parents,’ said Amanda Wilson, who was waiting one day this week to pick up her sophomore child at the high school.
She does get frustrated when things “get spun up” in the media and online, especially when children can access that from their phones.
“I think (posts and stories) get incorrectly commented on and I feel like that doesn’t help the situation, then children don’t feel like they’re safe or it’s not important,” she said.