Every piece of info is important, FBI agent says

FBI agent David Cook, left, talks with West Point Rotarian Robin McCormick.
Staff Writer

Even the smallest things can be important in preventing or solving a crime. And in the wake of dozens of fake school threats in West Point, Lowndes County and across the country since a school
shooting tragedy in Florida two weeks ago, parents and relatives must make it clear to their children that such threats are dangerous, an FBI agent said Thursday.

"Talk to your kids. Tell them these threats are serious, that they aren't a joke. If they do it, it can ruin their lives," David Cook, who is stationed at the FBI office in Columbus, told the West Point Rotary Club.

"Also talk to them about the importance of reporting things they see and hear. There are things out there on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat in their groups that we might not see. Even the littlest thing might be important," continued Cook, who has been in the FBI for three years but was a sheriff's deputy in Florida for 10 years before that.

Those small bits of information can help agencies piece together a picture that could identify someone in advance and get them help, or find someone after the fact, the agent said.

"It might be as simple as something written on a bathroom wall or scraps of paper with notes on them. People sometimes see someone's behavior and don't realize it," he continued, repeating the oft-used phrase, "If you see something, say something."

He also said citizens should not read too much into a lack of information sometimes released related to a case or an investigation. That is particularly troublesome in this age of social media where "news" can take on a life of its own, even if it is not accurate.

"Be skeptical of things you hear and read. Sometimes things are going on behind the scenes, most of the time they are, but we have chosen not to release something for a reason. Just because something has not been reported or you haven't heard it from us or from your local law enforcement doesn't mean it's not happening," he explained.

Clay County Sheriff Eddie Scott, who had Cook as the guest speaker, said one of the things that has improved the most in the last decade is cooperation among agencies at all levels.

"That improved cooperation and communication is one of the biggest successes," Scott said in introducing Cook.

One major day-to-day headache for law enforcement at all levels is scams and the perpetrators who carry them out.

Cook said the latest estimate is that in 2019, losses the Internet and phone scams could top $2 trillion.

"Those people could solve all kinds of things if they focused on doing something good rather than something bad," Cook stated.

Avoiding becoming a victim boils down to some basics.

"Be skeptical of everything, just question it all. Don't provide any kind of personal information over the phone, your Social Security number, your birth date, anything. It's a shame it has gotten to this, but it all goes back to being diligent," he concluded.