Schools, hospitals targeted in 31 bomb threats (and counting)
Indian River School District schools received two of the many bomb threats that targeted schools and hospitals early this week.
At least 31 bomb threats were telephoned in to schools and hospitals across Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. That included Indian River High School, Millsboro Middle School and Beebe Healthcare.
Most, if not all, of the bomb threats were automated phone calls to the main office of each location. Nothing suspicious appears to have been found (although Coastal Point has not independently confirmed this for all Maryland schools). Many facilities returned to regular business within a few hours, but a few schools ultimately sent students home for the entire day.
But police have responded to every call, and administrators launched into emergency procedures, whether that was evacuation or other precautionary measures.
The blitz began Monday, Jan. 11, continued on Tuesday and seemed likely to continue on Wednesday at Coastal Point press time, when Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, Md., reported an evacuation.
Most calls came in the morning, but a handful came after noon.
According to the Delaware State Police, “A robotic-style or computer-generated voice phone call was received in each of the schools’ offices.”
It was described as a male computer voice, according to the Greenwood Police Department.
“It kept looping and repeating. At this time, I can’t disclose what it said,” a Borough of Oxford, Pa., officer said. “At this time, we’re working with the FBI, Maryland intelligence and Delaware intelligence.”
“We don’t have any credible information that would have deemed it a credible threat,” said Officer Nathan Probus of the Prince William County (Va.) Police Department.
The calls would be considered terroristic threatening, which is a felony. Each incident would be a separate count, according to the Dover Police Department.
On Monday, Delaware schools receiving the threats included Indian River High School (Dagsboro), Caesar Rodney High School (Camden), Dover High School, H.B. DuPont Middle School (Hockessin), Seaford Middle School and Smyrna Elementary School.
Virginia’s two calls came Monday to Glenkirk Elementary School (Gainesville) and Ferry Farm Elementary School (Fredericksburg).
Pennsylvania was also subjected to calls on Monday, as the Borough of Oxford Police Department responded to an automated call at one undisclosed school. (Oxford police serve several schools that range from preschool to grade 8.)
Meanwhile, Maryland State Police were monitoring local police efforts for bomb threats in Anne Arundel, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, Talbot and Wicomico counties. (In an ill-timed HVAC malfunction, Ocean City (Md.) Elementary School was evacuated a second time in one day when smoke was detected in one classroom, which the fire department determined to be unrelated to the bomb threats.)
On Tuesday, Maryland State Police reported similar bomb threats in Charles, Carroll, Frederick, Wicomico and Worcester counties.
Also affected Tuesday were Millsboro Middle School, Central Middle School (Dover) and Beacon Middle School (Lewes). Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center actually received two phone calls, about 15 seconds apart, answered by two different people, according to the Greenwood Police Department.
The Milford Police Department was also investigating threats from Monday and Tuesday, but has not confirmed which schools received the calls.
Hospitals were also included. On Monday, Bayhealth Kent General received a bomb threat around 6:27 p.m. On Tuesday, Beebe Healthcare shut down its parking garage after a 2:42 p.m. automated call to the Lewes campus.
The Metropolitan Police Department did not identify whether bomb threats regularly received at Washington, D.C., schools might have been related to these incidents.
Delaware State Police are investigating six calls but, for the most part, individual police agencies have the right and duty to investigate within their own town or county.
However, the 20 individual agencies are working together, and the FBI has been consulted. The FBI did not immediately return calls for comment.
If anyone has any information relating to these incidents, they are being asked to contact Delaware State Police Troop 4 Youth Aid Division at (302) 856-5850. Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, online at www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”