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Two Tampa JCC preschools evacuated after receiving threatening robocall

TAMPA — Two threatening phone calls prompted the Tampa Jewish Community Center and Federation to close operations at both of its preschools early on Thursday.

Shortly after the calls came in around noon, students were evacuated from both the north campus, off Gunn Highway in Citrus Park, and the south campus at the Rodeph Sholom synagogue off Bayshore Boulevard. Parents received emails and phone calls directing them to a safe location where they could pick up their child.

Though both calls were pre-recorded "robocalls" received at roughly the same time, they delivered different threats, said Heidi Shimberg, chief operating officer of programs and services for the Tampa JCC. The north campus was told that multiple gunmen would come to the preschool Thursday, while the south campus received a bomb threat.

Officials with the Tampa Police Department and Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office swept both campuses and deemed all buildings safe for JCC and Federation offices to reopen Thursday afternoon. The preschools remained closed for the rest of the day.

Authorities were able to retrieve the phone number that placed the robocalls for further investigation, Shimberg said. She couldn't recall any similar threats being made toward the center in recent history.

Still, officials with the JCC noted that the calls came hours after two bomb threats were called into Jewish centers in Central Florida Wednesday afternoon.

"This seems to be a pattern as similar threats were made in Orlando yesterday, however the safety and security of every person is our highest priority and we will continue to follow our vigilant and thorough security measures as usual," Chief Executive Officer Gary Gould wrote in a statement.

Neither of Wednesday's threats, called in to the Center for Jewish Life on Sand Lake Boulevard and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando on Maitland Avenue, were carried out, according to area police.

"All JCC staff worked closely to ensure that all students, staff and visitors were safe and accounted for," Gould wrote.

"The authorities do not believe the threats to be credible," he said.

Two Tampa JCC preschools evacuated after receiving threatening robocall 01/05/17 [Last modified: Thursday, January 5, 2017 9:15pm]
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