Local bomb threats down, but awareness up

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 4, 2001

[10/04/01]Bomb threats in Warren County are actually down for the year, but world events have prompted officials to re-evaluate how they’re handled.

“The problem is we are under a terrorist watch,” Warren County District Attorney Gil Martin said. “People are very nervous.” Pranksters might have gotten a pass in the past, but no more, Martin said. “No one will tolerate this.”

Martin, whose job is to present evidence against those who make threats, wants people at frequent targets to meet and develop a shared strategy.

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“We need to refine what we’ve got by meeting and working with law enforcement to get everyone on the same page,” Martin said.

He said a new protocol will seek more detailed information, including listening for voice patterns or accents and precisely logging the time of a call.

Phone companies keep precise records of all calls placed between lines and those records can be obtained by prosecutors.

According to E911 records, Warren County received 53 bomb threats at businesses, including casinos, homes and government buildings, during all of 2000. This year, with less than three months to go, 24 threats have been logged.

Superintendent of Education Donald Oakes said threats made on Sept. 21 and Sept. 27 to Vicksburg High School have prompted him to take action.

The school is placing Caller ID boxes on phones and will be finished by the end of the week, said Mike Ouzts, school safety administrator. The cost would be about $300 to $400.

Oakes said tracing incoming calls will become standard in the district’s 13 other schools in the days to come.

“We also encourage other businesses to do the same if they think they might be a target for the same thing,” Martin said.

Both threats at the high school forced teachers and students outside for about three hours while police, firefighters and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in. No explosives were found.

A Vicksburg High School student and a Warren County man face charges of making the Sept. 21 threat. Arrested Friday, Terrance Quincy Carter, 18, 1720 Lane St., and Vincent Paul Brown, 19, 1530 Sweetgum Lane, face possible sentences of five years in prison and $5,000 fines.

No charges have been made in other highly visible threats, including one made to City Hall on Aug. 20 and one made Wednesday to the Warren County Courthouse.

Oakes said any bomb threat is serious, but a school is different.

“When you hit a school, you’ve got 1,200 students and 1,200 sets of parents,” Oakes said. “Things tend to get emotionally charged.”

Different plans of evacuation for all the schools will also be part of the new procedures, he said.

“The biggest thing that would help us now is community involvement,” Oakes said. If anyone has information on a bomb threat or a possible bomb threat, they should immediately contact local authorities.

“They can do this anonymously,” Martin said.