Crime

Bomb threats spike in HRM

Police have responded to 11 calls in less than two weeks

Halifax Regional Police on the go. Police respond to rash of false alarm bomb threats and reports of suspicious packages
Halifax Regional Police have responded to a rash of bomb threats and reports of suspicious packages.   Rachel Collier

Halifax Regional Police have responded to more bomb threats and reports of suspicious packages in 2016 than in any of the past seven years.

Since Sept. 20, police have responded to at least 11 bomb threats and reports of suspicious packages.

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All of the threats in the 10-day span proved to be false alarms – no bombs were found. Police considered some of the reported threats to be low-risk, but responded anyway to ensure public safety.

“We have to take every threat seriously,” explains HRP spokesperson Const. Dianne Woodworth.

The number of bomb threats reported to Halifax police per year since 2010 ranges from just three in 2014 to 12 in both 2011 and 2015:

  • 2010 – 9
  • 2011 – 12
  • 2012 – 10
  • 2013 – 9
  • 2014 – 3
  • 2015 – 12
  • 2016 – 20

The cost

Police have to evacuate and search buildings, coordinate traffic and call in the canine search unit when responding to bomb threats.

“It taxes our resources and stresses the public,” says Woodworth.

False alarms can be disruptive to businesses and the public, too.

Patrons and staff at the Halifax Central Library had to evacuate on Wednesday when police received reports about a suspicious package. Some patrons had to wait until midday Thursday to pick up personal items they left behind.

Monday evening, people had to evacuate the Dartmouth Sportsplex and the Dartmouth Bridge Transit Terminal. Several bus routes had to take detours to avoid the terminal, which was closed for just over an hour.

The Sportsplex was sealed off by police and closed for business for about five hours.

Business was stopped at Mic Mac Mall on Friday evening, due to another threat.

Other threats and reports have been less disruptive. In contrast, early-morning threats against Dalhousie University, Saint Mary’s University, the Halifax Central Library and Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sept. 25 had little impact on daily business.

“No operations were interrupted,” says a spokesperson for the airport.

Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s and the Central Library were closed when police and the institutions’ staff responded to the low-risk, threats, made around 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Both schools and the library opened later that morning without delay.

The consequences

Charges for calling in false alarm bomb threats can include uttering threats, mischief or public mischief among other charges. Fines or jail time are common sentences for these charges.

“They would most likely face jail time,” says Woodworth about anyone who created one of the recent threats.  Although, she explains that, in the end, charges depend on what turns up in the investigation.

One man has been charged in connection with a bomb threat earlier last month. A Halifax man faces a charge of public mischief in relation to a reported bomb threat on George Street on Sept. 6.

He is scheduled to appear in provincial court for an arraignment –  for the official reading of the charge in court – on Tuesday.

Police are still investigating the recent cluster of bomb threats, but no charges have been laid in those cases.