How do police handle threats made on social media?

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Police often have to distinguish whether or not a person may be considered a danger to society.

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) – Social media sites are used by millions of people around the world. With so many users, police must distinguish between freedom of speech and online threats.

Recently, a man in Boardman was arrested after making threats in an online chatroom. After investigating, police found 10,000 rounds of ammunition and over two dozen guns inside his home.

So, when do police take these online threats seriously?

“We take everything seriously. It’s all based upon the safety of the public, safety of officers and safety of individuals too,” said Boardman Police Chief Todd Werth.

Last week Boardman Police were called again after a 32-year-old man was making threats on Facebook. 

It was reported that this man suffered from mental illness. In the end, he was not arrested, but instead taken to a mental health facility. 

“When we run into an individual that may or may not have mental health issues, we’re not experts in that field. We rely on our partners in the community. There are a lot of non-profit government agencies in the area, in the Valley that we partner with,” Chief Werth said.

Police often have to distinguish whether or not a person may be considered a danger to society. 

It may be difficult to recognize when mental illness plays a role in a person’s online posts. If you don’t know the person, you may not know where their mental state lies at the time. Chief Werth says it’s important to keep that in mind before engaging in online threats or arguments.

Werth said if you do see something that concerns you, you should immediately report it to authorities. The police will then look into the matter and try to de-escalate it if possible. 

He said an online threat could lead anywhere from an officer having a conversation with the person, to charges being filed. 

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