September 27, 2006

Bomb Threat a Dud, Cops Say

It was nothing more than a hoax that will cost taxpayers around $5000 in police resources.

Last Wednesday evening at around 6 p.m. police were deployed to East Hampton High School in response to a bomb threat. According to Town Police Chief Todd Sarris, principal Scott Farina received an anonymous email stating that three bombs were in the building, slated to detonate the following day.

Cops searched the facility while school officials posted an advisory on the district website. Students were warned that all bags would be checked by police when they arrived for class Thursday morning.

After the building and grounds were searched and nothing untoward found, two officers remained on site through the night. By midday Thursday they were pulled off the detail.

By the time the commotion died down, police were ready to call the threat a prank. "Based on everything we've established, it's obviously a hoax," the Chief said.

Still, town cops are coordinating an investigation with Suffolk County cops, looking to see if there was a connection between the local crime and a bomb threat in Centereach earlier in the week. With yet another case in Nassau County, in all there were three schools responding to bomb threats over a seven-day period.

Tracing the origin of an email is "extra hard" for the typical police department to undertake, the chief admitted. The case has been referred to the county's computer crimes unit, where experts have the resources to embark on the exhaustive search.

Chief Sarris acknowledged that kids have perpetrated pranks at schools for almost as long as there have been schools. Most adults can recall a time in their own school careers when someone pulled the fire alarm, emptying buildings and causing a ruckus. Many, too, can even recall bomb threats called in — often coinciding with test days. The volume of such calls began to taper off when it became easier and easier for police to trace telephone calls swiftly.

Now, given the difficulty inherent of tracing anonymous emails, it appears mischief makers will be able to carry out hoaxes without much fear of getting caught "until technology reaches another level," Sarris said.

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