AMERICAN FORK — Police say a 16-year-old girl who thought an app created to help protect Utah students was "stupid" attempted to shut it down by submitting numerous false reports.
On March 15, police were called to American Fork High School by school administrators because they had been receiving "multiple tips from the same person" on the SafeUT app, which is designed to allow students anonymously report concerns or threats, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in 4th District Court.
"Those tips have included multiple different topics, including … students who are 'going to bring a bomb to school,' a student who is going to 'bring a gun to school,' and a mass stabbing which will occur at the school," the warrant states. "On each of these tips, names of real students who attend the school are mentioned."
Tips submitted to the app are anonymous, but investigators were able to determine the tips were all coming from the same address, where a 16-year-old student at the school, whom school resource officers "have had multiple encounters with," lives, according to the affidavit.
When the officer interviewed the girl, she "informed me she thought the app was stupid and so (she) and her friends were trying to shut it down by 'spamming' it. I asked (the girl) what this meant and (she) informed me that they thought if they sent enough spam to the app it would have to be shut down," the warrant states.
The reason the girl allegedly thought the app was stupid was because she had been sent to the principal's office because someone had submitted her name on the app, said American Fork Police Lt. Cameron Paul.
The names the girl submitted with her fake threats "were students that she had recently had a falling out with," the warrant states.
"Her plan was to try and get it to crash. So she was going to try and overload it with tips. She started sending random tips that were of different threats that were going to occur at the high school,” Paul said.
But the girl only got four fake tips submitted before police caught up with her, he said.
To ensure the safety of the school, police said they served a search warrant on the girl's phone to make sure none of the threats were legitimate.
Police will work with the Utah County Attorney's Office to determine if charges should be filed. The Alpine School District is on spring break this week, and a spokeswoman said the district would be unable to comment until Monday.
But Paul said making false reports like this is taken very serious today.7 comments on this story
"Obviously with the climate in society right now, we are becoming less tolerant and less willing to be sympathetic to anyone that submits a false report of something like a shooting or a bombing or something along those lines. We’re simply not going got tolerate that any more. Where this case goes from here, I don’t know,” he said.
The SafeUT Crisis Text and Tip Line is a statewide service that provides real-time crisis intervention to youth through texting and a confidential tip program. In addition to reporting threats, the app can also be used by students looking for help with bullying, mental health or suicide-related issues.
Contributing: Paul Nelson