Bomb squad alert and ready
December 8, 2003
By William Ferchland
Tribune staff writer
It may not be dangerous, but Aaron Crawford will check it out anyway.
When a suspicious package, bomb threat, pipe bomb or huge firework dud is reported, the Douglas County bomb technician wastes little time. He suits up and examines what is suspicious.
Last week he responded to a suspicious package at the South Lake Tahoe administrative center where the police and sheriff’s departments, El Dorado County Superior Court, the district attorney’s office, probation and public defender’s office are located.
The box, wrapped in duct tape with an Oklahoma return address, was addressed to Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe.
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Crawford suited up and then blew off the top of the package. Inside was a crystal with a light fixture. It was sent to Uthe in thanks from a woman whose charge was dropped to a misdemeanor.
“We’ve had suspicious ones before but we’d run over and run them through” the X-ray machine at the court and they would check out OK, Uthe said.
Last week’s package was different. It had wires and batteries.
“It is part of the job and a measure of caution is used,” Uthe said.
The city has a $6,000 contractual agreement with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office that pays for bomb detection services each year. So does Carson City and the Nevada Legislature.
Crawford said he usually responds to defusing old blasting caps or dynamite found in mines or old irrigation ditches. Bomb threats also constitute a good portion of the call load.
El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves said the bomb squad in Placerville responds to an average of one report a week. The same problem exists with people finding dynamite in old mines. Pipe bombs lying around are also a threat.
Neves said anybody who receives a suspicious package should leave it be. People sometimes make the mistake of bringing the package to a place where authorities can check it, but that place is usually in a populated area.
Tahoe Township Justice Court Judge Richard Glasson said his mail is screened by postal workers and an X-ray machine. Any suspicious packages that are delivered to his office are placed at the counter in front of a 3-inch glass pane and checked by Douglas County sheriff’s deputies.
“That glass out in front, that’s the ‘Dirty Harry’ glass,” he said. “It’ll stop a .44 mag.”
Packages sent to the administrative center that are received at the post office at Al Tahoe are not screened, said Tom Millham, lead window clerk. Instead, packages that are sent are filtered. Packages over one pound are presented to clerks, he said.
“Right now we are asking all customers on all packages if (they) contain anything that is liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous,” he said.
– E-mail William Ferchland at firstname.lastname@example.org.