THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay police are turning to the OPP to assist with the ongoing investigation into anonymous Crime Stoppers threats that have repeatedly targeted Hammarskjold High School.
The Thunder Bay Police Service on Friday announced that they have reached out to the provincial police for help in a supporting role in the investigation into the 12 threats, which has resulted in the school being closed 10 times.
Thunder Bay police Det.-Insp. Ryan Hughes said the OPP were made aware of the situation for the last several weeks but have become more heavily involved recently.
"On most of our complex investigations we do reach out for assistance with other services. The OPP have different units within their agency that can help us out in different aspects of the investigation," Hughes said.
"They have more extensive resources. They have specialty units that we don't have within the Thunder Bay Police Service. We will request some assistance from those units."
Hughes confirmed that all of the threats, which involve possible shootings, suspicious packages or bombs, are being made anonymously through Crime Stoppers, though he wouldn't say if they're being made by telephone or sent online.
"We are unable to identify who the tipster is," Hughes said. "It's very time consuming and difficult for us to try to identify. We are working at it but to this date, it's still Crime Stoppers tips that are coming in. They are anonymous and they are protected."
The threats have nearly exclusively targeted Hammarskjold, though one this week also included Superior Collegiate and Vocational Institute and prompted that school's closure for the day.
Hughes said each incident has resulted in upwards of 12 uniformed officers attending the school after the threat has been received, looking for suspicious people described in the tips or packages within the school.
The Thunder Bay Police Service, which has five full-time investigators devoted to the case, has established a special tip line for the investigation. Hughes said that line receives an average of five tips per day.
Hughes, who pointed out there are officers within the police service who have children attending Hammarskjold, said everybody involved is growing increasingly frustrated with the investigation, which he admitted has been extremely slow-moving but there have been a lot of steps that the investigators have to follow.
"We don't know if it's someone from within the school or someone who knows the school, if it's an adult or a student, if it was an ex-employee or an ex-student. We dont' know that yet," Hughes said, earlier mentioning that the threat could also be made anywhere in the world.
This week, threats closed Hammarskjold on Monday. Another threat closed both Hammarskjold and Superior on Tuesday. While the school day was not interrupted on Wednesday, a late morning threat closed Hamarskjold just after noon on Thursday. A threat received early Friday morning closed Hammarskjold again.
Hughes said the perpetrators of the incidents could face public mischief charges for leading police on false investigations.
While none of the 12 incidents have resulted in any acts of violence, Hughes said police and the school board have to remain vigilant.
"The concern right now is if there is a real threat mixed in with all of the threats," Hughes said.
"We have to be very cautious. It's a no-win situation. If we don't react and something happens, then it's a traumatic event for the community and the school. If we keep responding and nothing's happening and it looks like it's all hoaxes, there's a lot of resources that are being spent."