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Local, state agencies monitoring possible threats online amid recent attacks

State encourages parents to download SafeTN app
Posted at 5:37 PM, Aug 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-05 20:30:21-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Following two deadly attacks in less than 24 hours and the start of the school year, safety is being heavily stressed once again.

In his speech addressing the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, President Donald Trump called for the Department of Justice to work with social media companies to develop tools and identify possible mass shooters.

For several agencies in Tennessee, it's not always about how to react to mass casualty incidents, it's about prevention.

Lt. Scott Moore of the Wilson County Sheriff's Office is advising parents to stay proactive and watch what their children are viewing online and on social media, even if that means blocking content.

"It doesn't take much for bad thoughts to start going through the student's head about stuff they're seeing online," Lt. Moore told NewsChannel 5.

In collaboration with Wilson County Schools, the sheriff's office has been monitoring what students are saying on social media and school-issued emails through a system that tracks particular language. The goal is to track threats, and prevent possible suicides or attacks.

"It monitors any kind of terroristic language, it could be words such as suicide, bullying and guns," Moore added.

Two years ago, there were 29 school-related threats in Wilson County. Last year, the number dropped to 15. While most threats are not credible, Moore said they aren't taken lightly.

However, not all school districts have systems in place that automatically alerts law enforcement of suspicious behavior.

To help parents report of any suspicious or criminal behavior, the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is encouraging them to download the free app SafeTN.

Anyone can send tips anonymously of observed threats, behaviors or actions including bragging about an upcoming planned attack, sexual misconduct and assault.

"That information is automatically sent to our intelligence officers that work within the department. They will look at that information, try to add to it if they can and of course send that to the most appropriate agency that is best equipped to deal with whatever that situation is," Supervisory Agent Brice Allen said.

The app has been downloaded almost 200 times since its soft launch in May. There have been 17 tips so far but officials expect the number to go up with the new school year.

The system relies heavily on people coming forward because Allen says keeping track of everything online can be difficult.

"It's a fine line between the 1st amendment and protecting someone's rights, and whether they violated the law so it's a very fluid area we operate in," Allen added.

To learn more about SafeTN, click on this link.