Detonated 'bomb' turns out to be box of toys

Provo police had received report of suspicious package

Published: Saturday, Nov. 12 2005 12:00 a.m. MST

PROVO — A bomb squad detonated a suspicious package outside the Provo Police Station Friday — only to find out the box was full of toys.

Police, who had received a report of two individuals with a package outside the station, found the box in some bushes. Officers closed 300 West in Provo for about an hour and a half while a bomb-squad robot detonated the container.

All that was found inside, however, was a toy gun, holster and police nightstick.

Provo Police Sgt. Devon Jensen said the box was for "geocaching," a pastime in which participants use a Global Positioning System to find items other GPS users have hidden.

Jensen said police made contact with the person who placed the box at the station but are not considering any charges. "It wasn't a bomb scare intent on their part, just poor judgment," he said. "The kid that left it there didn't mark it as a geocache."

Geocaching has soared in popularity in recent years as GPS systems have become more accurate and more affordable. Geocaching.com, which provides lists of geocaches, names 78 caches within five miles of the ZIP code 84601, where the police station is located.

Brian Roth, co-founder of geocaching.com, said incidents like the one that happened Friday are rare but still a source of concern.

"In the last five years, I've probably heard of six incidents like this" he said. "If you consider the overall number of geocaches, it's not that many, but it's still six too many."

Roth, who lives in Seattle, said his site lists about 200,000 caches, and each cache is reviewed before it is posted for public viewing.

Prior to posting a cache, potential posters are asked to review a number of guidelines. Numerous locations are considered off-limits for caches, including on or near government buildings, schools, military installations and National Park lands.

Buried caches are also prohibited, and anyone who hides a cache is told to obtain permission from the landowner before hiding it. Cache hiders are also told to clearly mark the box as a geocache.

"Common sense goes a long way," Roth said. "We take this pretty seriously. It doesn't benefit the geocaching community to have poorly placed items."

Roth said most landowners are willing to have caches hidden on their property, as long as they know about it beforehand. He said his site emphasizes education and tries to follow a strict set of rules. Caches that are found to be in any violation are removed from the site.

"It's like anything else," he said. "If you don't follow the rules, you're going to cause some trouble and you could get in trouble yourself."

Friday's incident was the third time a geocache has prompted concerns in Utah. In 2002, a Salt Lake bomb squad was called to investigate a geocache that was stored in an ammunition box on the side of an access road that led to a sewage treatment plant.

In 2003, a cache stored under a bridge into Hill Air Force Base in Ogden put the base on high alert and prompted the closure of nearby on- and offramps to I-15.


E-mail: jtwitchell@desnews.com

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