Jan. 17 (UPI) — U.S. Capitol Police investigated 7,501 threats made against congressional members last year, marking a decrease from 2021 while remaining historically high, an agency spokesman said Tuesday.
The number of investigations into concerning statements and direct threats toward members of Congress for 2022 was a drop from the 9,625 investigations a year prior and still lower than the 8,613 cases in 2020 but follows an overall increase over the past few decades, officials said.
The number of cases in 2022 is also the third highest in the last six years and is nearly double the 3,939 threat investigations in 2017.
“The threats against members of Congress are still too high,” U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger said in a statement. “This has resulted in a necessary expansion of, not only our investigative capabilities, but our protection responsibilities as well.”
The year 2022 included several high-profile threat cases, including the late October attack of Paul Pelosi, the husband of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at his home by a hammer-wielding man who was looking for the California Democrat. The suspect, David DePape, pleaded not guilty late last year to charges that included attempted murder.
On Dec. 19, Joshua Hall was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to threatening to kill Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., in a series of August phone calls to the Congressman’s office.
In July, a man attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., while the politician was campaigning in his state’s gubernatorial race.
And that same month, Brett Forsell was arrested on felony stalking charges connected to harassing Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash.
During a Senate hearing in mid-December, Manger said threats and “directions of interests” targeting members of Congress have increase some 400% in the last six years — a number which he described as “sobering.”
“I cannot overstate the scope, breadth and intensity of the nation’s current threat climate. Hate, intolerance and violence are part of this disturbing trend,” he said, stating in the past year, his department saw more than 9,000 threats against members of Congress.
“The attacks on Rep. Lee Zeldin and Paul Pelosi, as well as the threats directed towards other members of Congress are a sad reminder of the extent to which our social fabric has frayed.”
He said to enhance protection, they will require more funds.
“Identifying and mitigating those threats requires resources — additional personnel, security assessments and other security enhancements for members, their families, their offices and their homes,” he said.
Manger said his force consists of some 1,966 sworn officers and 378 civilian employees. The U.S. Capitol Police website states it has an annual budget of some $460 million.
In the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, Capitol Police also opened new field offices in Florida and California to deal with the increase in threats.
Capitol Police added Tuesday that all members of Congress receive threats and the number of threats against both parties are similar.
Dr. Mario Scalora, the consulting psychologist for U.S. Capitol Police, said the increase in threats is directly related to Internet use and that a law enforcement solution alone is not the answer.
“Overall, during the last couple of decades, the Threat Assessment Section’s caseload has increased because people on social media have a false sense of anonymity and feel more emboldened,” Scalora said Tuesday. “This is not a problem we can only arrest our way out of.”