A treasure-hunting game is being blamed for a bomb scare that resulted in the four-hour closure of a major Ottawa road and an operation involving two dozen police officers, a hazmat team and the police explosives unit last week.
The scare was prompted by the discovery of a suspicious package under the Transitway bridge at Hurdman station last Wednesday that turned out to be part of a geocache. Geocaching is a game that involves searching for hidden packages using GPS co-ordinates.
'We have people putting things into pipes with wires out of it. They're trying to make these things look funny or amusing. They're not.' — Insp. Tyrus Cameron
Insp. Tyrus Cameron said the incident shut down Riverside Drive for four hours and police eventually blew up the package. Cameron said a report of a suspicious package requires action that uses up significant police resources.
"We put a perimeter, set that up, evacuate any people around in the area," he said. "We have to send our robot to go over to the package itself, x-ray the unit to see what we have — again, we don't want to put our members in danger, either."
Such resources shouldn't be wasted on a game, he said.
Better communication with police needed: Cameron
Police are urging geocachers who hide packages to tell police exactly where they are and make sure the caches don't look suspicious.
"They need to communicate far better with the police," Cameron said. "We have people putting things into pipes with wires out of it. They're trying to make these things look funny or amusing. They're not."
Darin Cowan, an Ottawa geocacher, agreed that caches should be in transparent packaging that is clearly labelled.
He said he has received a couple of phone calls from police who thought a reported suspicious package might be his.
Cowan estimates that there are 3,000 to 4,000 geocaches in the Ottawa area.