If you see something, say something.
This trademarked phrase from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can be heard in recordings at train stations and airports, sports stadiums and entertainment venues, encouraging Americans to report suspicious activity to authorities.
Last week in Cherry Hill, community members put the phrase into practice to help deter a threat made against Cherry Hill High School East.
Cherry Hill Police and school officials credited students, parents and community members with being vigilant after a juvenile made a threat against Cherry Hill East during the weekend of Jan. 30 and 31.
According to police and school district officials, a threatening text message involving Cherry Hill East had been going around social media pages throughout the weekend. Police Chief William Monaghan said the police department received numerous tips about the threat from community members, which were crucial in the investigation.
“By having citizens who actively participated, it allowed us to do our job better and it brought this incident to a very quick end,” Monaghan said.
The police department’s investigative unit tracked the origin of the message and ultimately charged a juvenile with one count of making a false public alarm. Police did not identify the juvenile.
Monaghan said the police take any threat against a person or place seriously, regardless of the intent.
“These types of things are not taken lightly,” he said. “Whether it’s a bomb threat or a threat to do harm to someone, we have the responsibility to conduct a thorough investigation.”
Police and school officials publicly acknowledged the threat on Sunday night. In a letter to the community, Superintendent Joe Meloche thanked community members for their concern and help in the case.
“I am grateful to the individuals who contacted the Cherry Hill Police Department and the High School East administration,” Meloche wrote in his letter.
Meloche announced in his letter Cherry Hill East and all schools would open as scheduled on Monday, Feb. 1. Prior to students returning, the police department searched the high school building and monitored it overnight.
As students and staff returned to Cherry Hill East for classes on Monday, they found additional police stationed at the school.
Monaghan and school district public information officer Barbara Wilson said the school day proceeded as normal at Cherry Hill East on Feb. 1 and there were no incidents.
“We had no disruption to the normal school week, which was our goal,” Monaghan said.
Police have not released additional details on the threat and no additional charges have been pressed against the juvenile. Both Monaghan and Meloche said the incident serves as an example of how all people should watch what they write or say, especially with social media.
“I urge everyone to be very cautious and to be thoughtful prior to posting anything on social media,” Meloche wrote in his letter to the community. “The ramifications of our words, written and spoken, are long reaching.”
“People should be very careful with what they put online, because it can definitely have a snowball effect,” Monaghan said.
Residents are encouraged to use the Cherry Hill Police Department’s tip line to report any suspicious activity. To leave a tip, visit www.cherryhill-nj.com/132/Police-Department and click on “Submit a Tip” on the right side of the page.