Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bomb Threats Are 'Not a Joke Anymore'

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Bomb Threats Are 'Not a Joke Anymore'

Article excerpt

PASSAIC -- Detailing in stark terms the fate that awaits anyone found making bomb threats, Passaic County law enforcement officers took the unusual step of addressing students directly on Tuesday in the wake of eight bomb threats this year at Passaic High School.

In separate morning assemblies for freshmen and sophomores, members of the Sheriff's Office bomb squad warned of possible jail time and huge monetary costs involved with an arrest on charges of making a bomb threat, and said a few students are endangering all their classmates and the public safety officers who must respond to such emergencies.

"It's only one or two kids out of the whole high school," said county correction officer Scott Douma, a bomb technician.

Four of the bomb threats at Passaic High School since January forced evacuations of the school, and in four cases,, students, faculty and staff were forced to "shelter in place," remaining in the building until officers could complete a search for any explosive device, Principal Francisco Velez said.

The bomb threats have been made by robocalls, messages scrawled across walls in school restrooms, and on social media. In one case, in which an arrest was made, someone wrote a bomb threat on an electrical extension cord.

"These are the guys that show up when these things happen," Velez said, referring to Douma and Cmdr. Kenny Mercado, also a bomb technician in the Sheriff's Office.

Mercado called the bomb-threat hoaxes "nonsense" and ticked off the consequences for anyone charged with making them: a criminal record, jail time, probation and restitution costs that could run in the thousands of dollars. A law that took effect March 1 increases the penalties for creating a false public alarm.

"You get charged our overtime rate," Mercado said. "This is something that your parents are going to pay because you decided to play a joke."

The sheriff's officers reminded students about a 2007 prank at Wayne Valley High School in which students were charged with planting smoke bombs that forced an evacuation. …

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