The North Mac School District may have been a victim of “swatting” yesterday.
Swatting is a criminal harassment tactic used to deceive emergency services into sending a police or emergency service response team to a particular address by falsely reporting a serious law enforcement emergency like a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or mental health emergency involving a suicidal or homicidal subject.
In a joint statement released by the district and Virden Police yesterday, at approximately 9:47AM the Virden Police received a report of a subject with a weapon on the exterior of the premises of North Mac High School trying to gain entry into the building with the intention of causing serious harm. The school was placed on hard lock down shortly after.
According to the release, the Virden Police were on scene within minutes and secured the interior of the high school building determining no immediate threat existed. Also responding to the scene were the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office, the Girard Police, Illinois State Police, and Illinois Conservation Police.
At 10:44AM, the hard lock down of the school ended and the high school and elementary school were placed on soft lock down with a heavy police presence. No threat was found and parents were notified of the situation.
Following the lock down, detectives with the Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office followed up on the phone number that sent the message and determined it belonged to a “TextNow” app.
According to TextNow, customers are allowed to choose a cell phone number in the area code of their choice, and the number acts similar to any number that is a part of a major telecommunication carrier’s service. It is a common app used for people who have a second phone line or “burner” phone account.
After contacting TextNow, detectives obtained an IP address that was traced to an out-of-state location. The detectives also determined that 5 other school districts in Illinois also received a similar threat yesterday. The other locations were determined to be Vandalia, Winnetka, Wilmette, Wheaton, and Zion.
The Virden Police Department says the investigation remains ongoing into the incident.