Since Jan. 1, the Palestine Police Department has responded to almost 20 bomb threats. That's extraordinary, considering totals for previous years ran one or two a year.
PPD administrators hope they have curbed this trend, with the arrest Tuesday of local resident Randall Smith.
Smith, 54, is the chief suspect in 16 of the 17 bomb threats reported to the department this year, including calls to the Palestine Regional Medical Center and the Palestine Independent School District.
PPD Detective James Heavner obtained arrest warrants for Smith on charges of false alarm or report, after records revealed Smith had called in the threats.
Bomb threats costs the city money and resources it could use for emergencies.
When a bomb threat is received, PPD personnel are pulled from patrol and other duties to sweep the area for explosive devices. Additionally, fire and EMS crews are put on stand-by, and often called to the scene for support.
If a device is discovered, the PPD contacts Fort Hood, and a team of specially trained U.S. Army explosive experts goes to the city.
Communicating a false bomb threat in Texas is a class “A” misdemeanor, punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000, and up to 180 days in jail. If the threat is made against a public or private school, public transportation, public gas, water, power supply or communications, or any other public service, it is a state jail felony, punishable by jail time of no less than 180 days and no more than two years.
Smith was arrested at his residence by Anderson County Sheriff's deputies late Tuesday night. He is locked up in the Anderson County Jail, with bonds totaling $1 million.
PPD officials said additional charges are pending.
“These bomb threats have caused panic and are an unnecessary disruption in our community,” Palestine Police Captain Mark Harcrow said. “Detective Heavner, in conjunction with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, did a great job on this investigation. I am proud of the teamwork involved.”