Potentially serious incident averted in Hazleton, PA
HARRISBURG — Less than a day after Attorney General Josh Shapiro released information on the first-week results for the Safe2Say Something Anonymous Reporting System, police in Hazleton, PA received a call from a local communication center with a Safe2Say Something tip indicating a potential threat of gun violence at Hazleton Middle School.
“As I said yesterday, Pennsylvania students deserve a safe place to learn, free from the threat of violence from classmates or other individuals,” Attorney General Shapiro. “We’ll never know if this threat would have resulted in yet another tragic school shooting, but thanks to a tip that came in through Safe2Say Something – and the swift response of Hazleton-area law enforcement – fortunately all we are doing now is wondering, rather than mourning.”
According to a press release issued by Hazleton police, earlier this morning at approximately 2:30 a.m., Hazelton City police Sergeant Joseph Babula received a call from the Luzerne County Communications Center regarding a Safe2Say Something tip that a 14 year-old juvenile allegedly made a threat against the school through a social media site (SnapChat).
Based on that information, Hazleton Police Chief Jerry Speziale was immediately notified and coordinated with the Hazleton Area school police chief, Hazleton police detectives and Mayor Jeff Cusat. Then, Hazleton police officers responded to the juvenile’s home at approximately 4:30 a.m. and met with adults in the home. It was determined that there was a licensed Glock .45 caliber handgun in the home. Officers inquired if the weapon was secured and were told that it was locked and stored in a safe place. After further investigation, officers learned that was not the case as the weapon was fully loaded and out in the open on top of a bedroom nightstand.
Officers then seized the handgun for safekeeping and the juvenile was transported to Hazleton Police headquarters, accompanied by the adults in the home. Interviews are presently being conducted and the investigation is ongoing pending potential criminal charges.
“In my experience as a career law enforcement officer, tips and information from the public are invaluable tools for preventing and investigating crime,” said Hazleton Police Chief Jerry Speziale. “The Safe2Say Something program undoubtedly helped my department do its job today.”
Safe2Say Something is a statewide program enabling students, teachers, school administrators and others to detect and report potential threats of violence and other problems before they happen.
In the program’s initial week, the reporting system has received 615 tips and calls from across Pennsylvania. Crisis center analysts have processed every tip and referred more than several hundred to local law enforcement and school officials to follow up and interact with students.
Established and funded by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law by Gov. Wolf last year, the Safe2Say Reporting System is based on strict principles of anonymity and confidentiality to encourage reporting of problems, potential threats of violence, self-harm or other incidents.
Safe2Say already includes 3,774 public and private schools across the Commonwealth in its network. Last week, the program’s staff trained 178,283 students in how to use the reporting system. This week, plans are to complete trainings for an additional 166,883 students, and trainings will continue as the program is rolled out.
Students, school officials and others can go to www.safe2saypa.org to learn more about this new school safety initiative. They can also call 1-844-Saf2Say (844-723-2729) to report information.
# # #