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‘Not a joke’: York Region police issue warning after increase in threats to schools

York Regional Police officer. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg

York Regional Police are issuing a warning after an increase in the reports of threats made by youths towards schools and their peers.

In a press release Monday, the force said it is also warning of an increase in reports of young people in possession of “various forms of replica firearms.”

“When a tragic incident occurs, inside or outside of Canada, we often see a ripple effect occurring in our own community. In the last few weeks, we have responded to threats, many of them made on social media sites, that are connected to schools,” police said in the release.

“Following investigation, none of the reports were found to be legitimate in the sense that there was no intention to actually carry out the threats. However, they remain deeply concerning to the police and the community.”

Read more: Richmond Hill high school moved to online learning amid threat investigation: school board

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Police said “these incidents are not a joke,” and encouraged parents to “open a dialogue” with their teens about making threats.

“(These incidents) result in high levels of fear in our community, the wasting of significant police resources and can result in very serious charges being laid against a suspect, regardless of their age,” the release said.

In an email to Global News, York Regional Police Cons. Laura Nicolle said between May 24 and June 6 of this year, two “really significant incidents” have occurred which resulted in charges laid against teens.

Read more: Threat made in video posted to social media prompts hold and secure at Aurora, Ont. schools

 

“Citizens are also reminded that school resource officers and all other police-related programs have been paused at both school boards and officers are not on site unless they are called for an incident,” the release read. “Therefore, it is crucial that students, staff or other citizens report any potential threats immediately, so that officers can respond.”

Police said when officers receive a call about a weapon, it will be treated as real until an investigation proves otherwise.

Officers said there is “often no way” to tell if the weapon is real before an investigation.

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Officers said police-involved shootings have occurred where a firearm is later determined to be a replica.

“And the officer has been found to be justified in their actions,” the release said.

What’s more, the force said replica firearms, air guns, gel guns or toy guns “used in the commission of another offence are considered legitimate weapons and those responsible will face significant criminal charges.”

Police said residents should “seriously consider the risks and responsibilities involved in owning any item that could be perceived as a firearm.”

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