TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A terrorist threat investigation by the FBI led police in Casa Grande to arrest a 19-year-old man earlier this month. He was accused of making threats to carry out mass shootings at a high school, movie theater and police department, while praising the shooter in Uvalde, Texas.
That investigation started with a tip from the public — something the FBI says is needed to keep the country safe.
The FBI’s National Threat Operations Center—located in Clarksburg, West Virginia and also known as NTOC—fields more than 3,000 calls and electronic tips from the public every day.
Since the beginning of 2022, 795 criminal tips have been sent to FBI Phoenix, which covers the state of Arizona. Another 76 tips came in for counterterrorism, and an additional 23 for weapons of mass destruction.
“Every complaint, you know, there is going to be a human interface,” said Jon Edwards, supervisory agent with the violent crimes unit at the FBI’s Tucson field office. “Public tips are probably the most important piece for us to be successful… Obviously the FBI is a large organization, but we can’t be everywhere.”
Edwards says the violent crimes unit is likely the busiest team at the Tucson field office.
“There’s definitely been an increase in these types of threats and the reporting of these types of threats,” he told KGUN. “The platforms these types of threats can be made on, whether it’s gaming systems, mobile gaming apps, social media… because those platforms have increased, the complaints have increased and our workload has increased.”
Not all tips are credible; they get vetted through different databases at NTOC, checking for prior law enforcement contacts, prior complaints or criminal history.
Then, if needed, the tip comes to a field office for additional database checks.
“Is it a direct threat? Is it an implied threat? We would look at that,” Edwards explained. “We would then look at where the victim and the subject reside.”
The FBI can only take action when a tip involves someone breaking a federal law.
“We have to sift through those threats to determine what is in our arena, and what might be in other state, local, or county arenas,” said Edwards.
Officers from those other law enforcement agencies, like TPD or tribal police, work at the Tucson field office alongside FBI agents every day, ready to respond to relevant threats that come in to the FBI.
But Edwards said that team works best with help from the public.
“If you see something or something is concerning you, especially in terms of threats of violence, always report it,” he said. “It’s always just best to be safe.”
For any imminent concern, call 911.
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