Number of calls rises for bomb squad


ANNAPOLIS -- Public nervousness about potential terrorist threats has touched off an explosion of work for the state's bomb squad, a spokesman for the state fire marshal said yesterday.

In the last two months, the bomb squad has received more than 300 calls to check out such things as suspicious packages, unclaimed airport baggage and abandoned cars, said Robert B. Thomas Jr., deputy chief state fire marshal.

"Normally we run 480 calls in an entire year," said Mr. Thomas. "There's really a heightened awareness because of events in the Middle East."

The bomb squad has not uncovered more explosives as a result of the calls, Mr. Thomas said. Most of the calls have been from the Washington metropolitan area.

Baltimore and Prince George's and Baltimore counties also have units that respond to bomb threats.

J. Edward Frantz, director of human services for Washington County public schools, told members of the House Judiciary Committee that the school system has lost 36 hours of instruction over five days because of bomb threats.

"Given what is happening in the Middle East, we have to take these threats very seriously," said Mr. Frantz, who reported five arrests and two convictions, all involving juveniles, in connection with the threats.

Washington County is home to Circuit Judge John P. Corderman, who was injured when a package of pipe bombs exploded in his apartment in December 1989.

Mr. Thomas said the state fire marshal's office supports legislation to increase from $1,000 to $10,000 the fine for making bomb threats.

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