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Social Media Watchdog Groups Vital to Public Safety

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - An out-of-state watchdog organization is getting the credit for alerting police to a threat that led to a lockdown at Pioneer Valley High School yesterday.

"It's extremely important to have the eyes and ears of the public out there watching," said former FBI agent Dan Payne.

Payne says there are many instances where crimes could have been prevented if only someone caught the first signs of trouble on social media.

"The more people you have out there monitoring this that have the ability to see what's going on and alert the appropriate authorities can prevent a lot of crime," said Payne.

Wednesday's lockdown at Pioneer Valley High School was an example of quick action. Santa Maria Police say a student posted a message on social media threatening a violent act on the school. An out-of-state watchdog organization saw it and contacted school administration. That prompted the lockdown, and the student was booked into juvenile hall for criminal threats. Neither the high school nor police were able to confirm the name of the watchdog group. After questioning the student, police say the threat was merely a joke. Payne says even though it was a joke, the lockdown was warranted.

"They have to err on the side of caution because if a school got a bomb threat and said 'oh it's a joke' or something like that and a bomb actually went off, you can imagine the hue and cry from the public."

With the popularity of social media among teens, Payne says students need to use good judgement when posting.

"This type of messaging is not acceptable," said Payne. "You have to be responsible for the consequences even if you don't realize at the time what's going to happen."

Since the student is a minor, certain information is being withheld. It's not known whether the student is still in custody at this time.

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