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Police stretched thin responding to multiple bomb threats

Posted at 6:44 PM, Dec 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-14 18:44:37-05

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The city of Buffalo saw five separate buildings targeted simultaneously by bomb threats Thursday afternoon and Buffalo Police referred to the necessary response as a "drain on resources".

The threats all came in the form of an email, indicating an explosive had been placed in the building and demanding Bitcoin from the building owners. The threats in Buffalo were all determined to be a hoax.

In Buffalo, while police focused on determining whether the threats were legitimate, the department said calls in other parts of the city could not be responded to right away. The FBI activated the Joint Terrorism Task Force to coordinate a response to the threats with multiple agencies.

"Well it certainly poses a manpower challenge and also an asset challenge," NFTA Transit Police Department Chief George Gast explained.

The NFTA assisted in Buffalo's response with explosive detecting K9 units. Some were relocated from patrol at Buffalo Niagara International Airport, other teams were called in to work overtime.

"You only have so many dogs. You only have so much opportunity. You only have so much area you can clear at one time. So, as a result, you have to prioritize targets," Chief Gast said.

"It's new to me anyway that this type of threat came out in a phishing email in that there were hundreds of them," Dr. Steven MacMartin, a homeland security expert at Medaille College, said.

"My thought is, if this guy does another 200 today and he does another 200 Saturday and he does another 200 next week, it starts to dilute that heightened state of security," MacMartin said. "If I was a bad guy that's when I'd do the real attack."

According to cybersecurity expert Arun Vishwanath, law enforcement has a better chance of tracking down who is behind the email threats because so many were sent out.

"We've got to take them all seriously, but we're stretching our resources thin," Vishwanath said. "That's the takeaway. That's the lesson here. The next one is definitely coming, right? What happens with these kind of attacks are people learn, there are copycats."

Authorities across four different countries are trying to track down who sent hundreds of threats on Thursday.

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