News / Calgary

Calgary police see 'big rush' of bomb calls post-Boston Marathon tragedy

Calgary police are attributing a spike in suspicious package reports in recent weeks to the Boston Marathon bombing.

Saturday will mark two months since pressure-cooker bombs went off at the finish line of the famous U.S. race, killing three and injuring more than 260 others.

Where Calgary's team of 10 bomb technicians have typically responded to one scene per week in recent years, Const. Jason Walliser said lately the workload has doubled — or even tripled — some weeks.

"We've certainly had a big rush of them," he said. "There's certainly a heightened awareness."

The calls have ranged greatly in threat, with reported devices turning out to be everything from a box filled with apples to an actual improvised explosive.

Last week, bomb techs had to use a water feature on one of their high-tech robots to douse a matchstick bomb, eliminating its detonation capability.

A week prior, crews responded to a particularly disturbing call that saw a cooker similar to the ones used in Boston dropped into a trash bin at the Brentwood LRT station. It was later determined no explosives were present.

Earlier that month, police evacuated the Calgary Courts Centre and shut down blocks of the downtown core after finding a "plasticine-like substance that turned out to be non-explosive.

Police Chief Rick Hanson late said the suspect "intended to cause the reaction that happened."

Both Walliser and fellow bomb tech Const. Dino Corradetti said they would rather investigate a call from the public than have someone not report it and a tragedy occur.

Corradetti said the team is forced to constantly research explosive devices, adding bomb types are only "limited by somebody's imagination."

"We have to be kind of reactive . . . if they (the bombers) are successful in their attempts, then it's kind of a learning point around the world and we need to add that to our repertoire as another device that we have to disable or render safe," he said.

But Walliser said the public doesn't need to panic. Prior to the Boston tragedy, local bomb calls had actually declined by as much as half in recent years, something he attributes directly to a crackdown on organized crime in the city.

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