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More School Bomb Threats Plague St. Croix

May 19, 2006 – Police responded to two more bomb threats at Elena Christian Junior High School in La Grand Princesse on Friday, a day after a bomb threat was called in to that school and three other public schools on St. Croix.
Meanwhile Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said that the rash of bomb threats that have turned out to be pranks across the territory in recent months cannot continue and is putting the pranksters on notice.
No bomb was found at the school, which is on double session with John H. Woodson Junior High School, just like no bombs were found at any of the schools on Thursday or at businesses including the V.I. Water and Power Authority and Seaborne Airlines in recent weeks and months.
Lewis said he plans to meet with telephone service providers and other stakeholders in the territory to obtain the necessary equipment and technology to identify and localize callers, whether they make calls from public, private or cellular phones.
And when the culprits are apprehended – and even if they turn out to be minors – Lewis said he will see to it that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
"Whatever it takes, we will strive to identify, apprehend and prosecute those who make bomb threats," Lewis said in an editorial. (See Bomb Threats Victimize Entire Territory.)
"Those who would commit these acts should know also that we will stringently oppose any leniency in the handling of these offenders, regardless of their age.
"There is no excuse whatsoever for causing such disruption to people's lives, and we cannot and will not tolerate it."
Police Department public relations officer Shawna Richards said the first bomb threat on Friday was received around 8:20 a.m. when students from Elena Christian Junior High School were in classes. The second call was made at 1:06 p.m. when students from John H. Woodson Junior High School were in classes.
Richards said that in each instant, after the bomb threat was made, the school was evacuated and police officers, including the bomb squad, responded until an all-clear given. The Marine unit also responded, Richards said.
In addition to telephone service providers, Commissioner Lewis said he plans to meet with senators and V.I. Homeland Security to "explore avenues of dealing with this situation swiftly and surely."
Lewis, who called the pranks "ill-conceived actions" and "criminal acts," said that Police must respond to each threat just as if it were an immediate hazard.
"Each response involves a significant number of personnel and equipment at a cost to taxpayers," he said.
Richards said that the victims are the students who miss out on classes in the cases of schools that are targeted and business services are disrupted when a bomb threat is called in.
In the case of Seaborne, flights had to be cancelled leaving some passengers stranded.
Police cannot afford to shrug off the threats as pranks, she said.
"The Police Department must fully investigate every incident believed to be a threat to residents or property," Richards said.
During a five-hour period on Thursday, police officers, firefighters, bomb squad members and other HazMat personnel flayed about the island responding to bomb threats involving the Education Department office on St. Croix and five public schools.
The threats were called in between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m. to Juanita Gardine Elementary in Estate Richmond, Elena Christian Junior High School in La Grande Princesse, Educational Complex in Castle Burke and Central High School in Kingshill.
School officials at Ricardo Richards Elementary School in Estate Barren Spot also reported finding a suspicious bag at the school about 10 a.m. Thursday.
Education officials said that a threat was called into the department's office in downtown Christiansted about 8:23 a.m. Thursday, forcing evacuation of staff.
The caller, school officials told Police, sounded like a "young person."
Lewis said that VIPD is also working with federal law enforcement to apprehend callers. A bomb threat is a federal offense punishable with up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both.
"This penalty also applies to juvenile offenders," Lewis said.
Richards said Friday that because schools, government offices and businesses have been the target of bomb threats, the Police Department is "urging all business owners to have an emergency plan that would include an area where employees can safely gather and be accounted for."
Business owners should be aware of suspicious items such as unclaimed or unidentified bags or vehicles parked overnight in areas that normally wouldn't be there, she said.
"We also encourage them to install caller I.D. if they already don't have that."

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