The Daily Illini

UIPD exercises caution with alerts

A+member+of+the+bomb+squad+suits+up+to+address+a+suspicious+package+left+on+the+1100+block+of+Sixth+Street+on+Aug.+26.
Back to Article
Back to Article

UIPD exercises caution with alerts

A member of the bomb squad suits up to address a suspicious package left on the 1100 block of Sixth Street on Aug. 26.

A member of the bomb squad suits up to address a suspicious package left on the 1100 block of Sixth Street on Aug. 26.

Bercham Kamber

A member of the bomb squad suits up to address a suspicious package left on the 1100 block of Sixth Street on Aug. 26.

Bercham Kamber

Bercham Kamber

A member of the bomb squad suits up to address a suspicious package left on the 1100 block of Sixth Street on Aug. 26.

By Zihan Wang, Staff Writer

After multiple Illini-Alerts were sent out for suspicious packages that turned out to be harmless, the University of Illinois Police Department said it sends out alerts for packages that pose even the slightest threat to the campus community.

Sgt. Aaron Landers, UIPD bomb squad commander, said when they receive suspicious package calls, the bomb technicians and bomb squad commander will decide together whether or not to send an Illini-Alert.

Benjamin Wood, police officer and bomb technician at the UIPD, said they take into account the environment a package appears in, such as the location, sensitivity and foot traffic when they evaluate a suspicious package.

For example, the bomb squad would be more concerned about a package placed near a busy building entrance than a package lying by a tree with no one around.

Landers said 90 percent of suspicious package calls UIPD responded to ended up being harmless. In the past year, there were no real threats from suspicious packages on campus, despite multiple alerts dispatched. Landers said most suspicious packages reported across the country are harmless.

“They are just misdelivered packages, something that will make our bomb technicians nervous, but at the end of the day, it turns out to be something not all that serious,” Landers said.

Patrick Wade, communications director for UIPD, said in an email the department’s bomb squad serves 12 counties in Illinois.

When the department decides to intervene, Wade said they will send an explosive ordinance disposal unit to respond to the suspicious package. This is a specialized unit that has a high degree of training in bomb disposal.

“Very few police departments have a bomb squad, so we are lucky to have that expertise here on our campus,” Wade said.

Around Halloween, Wood responded to a call that reported a suspected grenade near the psychology building. After using his equipment to examine the object and getting as close as he could to the potentially dangerous object, Wood determined the suspicious object was actually a plastic grenade from a Halloween costume.

Landers said UIPD has different techniques for dealing with such cases, including unmanned aerial vehicles to observe the packages, robots and X-ray systems to check the contents of packages.

Wood urges students to follow the instructions on Illini-Alerts to be safe. He said alerts may cause inconveniences or traffic jams, but it is worth it to keep students from getting hurt.

Landers encouraged students to call the police department whenever they see packages out of place or in a sensitive location such as a church or area with a lot of people, or when they see a package with materials like wires, batteries and nails.

“If it makes you feel kind of suspicious or kind of odd, it doesn’t hurt to give us a call. We appreciate those calls,” Landers said.

[email protected]

Leave a Comment