Utah County teenagers have discovered a new form of entertainment over the past year - blowing things to pieces with dry-ice bombs.
Law enforcement officials, however, are not amused and have decided that the need to warn others about the dangers of such bombs outweighs their initial reluctance to discuss the issue for fear of planting ideas in others' heads.The bombs, law enforcement officials say, may seem like innocent fun to teenagers. But using them is a serious crime. Craig Madsen, deputy county attorney, said even though those building and using these bombs view it as a prank, prosecutors do not. The bombs can cause a tremendous amount of damage and could injure or kill someone.
The bombs are made by placing dry ice and water in a plastic two-liter bottle. When the ice melts it creates pressure inside the bottle until it explodes. Teenagers use the bombs to destroy mailboxes and contents of garbage dumpsters.
"They seem to think it's a lark," Madsen said. "The most common comment we are hearing is that these are good boys just pulling a prank. Well, we're saying that good boys don't blow up things."
Those caught can be charged with three felony counts: one for building the bomb, one for possessing the bomb and one for using the bomb. If the incident involves a mailbox, the offender could be charged with a federal offense. Madsen said the county attorney's office has prosecuted each case according to the law and will continue to do so.
"We don't view this as a prank. These things blow up with terrific force and are very dangerous," Madsen said.
Officials from the attorney's office have been hesitant to discuss the bombing problem because they fear publicity will generate curiosity among teenagers. But because so many complaints are being filed they feel it's time to do something. They say people who make the bombs need to realize the consequences of their actions.
"We don't want kids saying, `Hey, that's neat,' and then going out and doing it. But it's reached the point that somebody is going to get killed or seriously injured if it continues. It hasn't gone away as a fad and is growing, so it's time to put a stop to it," Madsen said.
The attorney's office used to get a referral for a case involving a dry-ice bomb about every three months. Now they're coming in weekly, Madsen said. The most recent case involves 14 defendants, many of whom are Brigham Young University students.
Last fall, Orem Police responded to about 15 incidents involving dry-ice bombs. But according to Gerald Nielsen, public information officer for Orem Police, reports of dry-ice bombing have actually decreased in the past few months. However, Nielsen blames the decrease on the cold weather and fears that the bombings will increase as the weather warms up.
None of the Orem bombing incidents resulted in an arrest, but Nielsen said if police catch someone making, possessing or using a dry-ice bomb he or she will be prosecuted.
"If we caught somebody we'd definitely send them to juvenile court or through the adult system because it is potentially a very dangerous thing and can cause serious harm," Nielsen said.