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Threats against three Queens schools an Internet hoax: NYPD

PS 58 in Maspeth is one of three area schools threatened with violence on social media that the NYPD is currently investigating.
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A police investigation has determined threats against three Queens schools last week turned out to be an Internet hoax, Detective Thomas Bell of the 104th Precinct’s Community Affairs unit said in a brief statement Thursday morning.

“The NYPD through an investigation identified the individual responsible for the threats made to local schools in the area via social media,” he said. “The individual responsible was determined to be a minor. There are no credible threats to any local schools at this time.”

The NYPD began investigating violent threats made online last Friday against schools in Maspeth, Middle Village and Elmhurst. An Instagram posting warned of future shootings at PS 58 in Maspeth, known as the School of Heroes, the Middle Village Preparatory Charter School and St. Adalbert Catholic Academy in Elmhurst as well.

“Safety is our top priority and we are closely monitoring the situation,” city Department of Education spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said. “The NYPD is conducting an investigation and we are providing the school (PS 58) with additional safety support.”

The NYPD would not provide details of its investigation, but in a letter to the parents of students at PS 58 sent out last Friday, Principal Adelina Valastro-Tripoli wrote that NYPD School Safety and the NYPD Counterterrorism Unit were immediately notified.

“We are monitoring the situation and will continue working closely with the NYPD to ensure the safety and security of our building,” Valastro-Tripoli said. “We assure you that every precaution will continue to be taken to ensure that our students and staff will remain safe.”

The principal at the 125-year-old St. Adalbert’s Catholic Academy, Sister Kathleen Maciej, also sent a letter last Friday to parents, faculty and staff at her school.

“Immediate contact was made with the 110th Precinct and the diocesan superinten­dent,” she said. “The police from the 110th Precinct responded promptly and began their investigation. The policy of the diocese is to cooperate with the police and take our direction from them.”

Maciej said an investigation by the 104th Precinct was also underway since the information was made known by individuals within the boundaries of their precinct.

“There was no imminent danger to anyone today,” she wrote. “The police informed me that they would be contacting me on the procedures they would take to ensure the safety of everyone.”

Adding to concerns of parents in the three neighborhoods is the upcoming fifth anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Twenty students, between the ages of 6 and 7, and six adults were shot and killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza with an AR-15 assault weapon and two handguns Dec. 14, 2012.

“It’s the same time of year and copycat crimes are commonplace these days,” community leader Christina Wilkinson said. “You can’t take any threat too lightly.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Posted 5:04 pm, December 7, 2017
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