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Halifax sees spike in hoax bomb threats, 7 reported in less than 48 hours

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For the sixth time in 36-hours, police in the Halifax-area found themselves dealing with a bomb threat. The latest target was a Cole Harbour school. As Global's Natasha Pace reports, the region is seeing a spike in these senseless hoaxes. – Sep 26, 2016

For the seventh time in just 48 hours, police in the Halifax Regional Municipality were rushing to the scene of a bomb threat Monday.

Halifax Regional Police were called to the Dartmouth Sportsplex and nearby Halifax Transit terminal Monday afternoon.

The Dartmouth Bridge Terminal was closed in response to the threat, and police have evacuated the terminal forcing several bus routes to be detoured.

The Sportsplex was also evacuated and management announced the facility would remain closed for the rest of the night.

The terminal has since re-opened to the public and buses were permitted on the premises shortly after 6:30 p.m.

This call came just a few hours after RCMP were called to Cole Harbour High School in Cole Harbour, N.S., Monday morning, after a bomb threat was called in using a computerized voice messaging system — something that’s often difficult for police to trace.

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Students and staff were allowed back in the school shortly after 9 a.m., once officers, with the help of a a police service dog, found the threat to be yet another hoax.

Investigators have not said how the threat at the Sportsplex and Transit terminal were reported.

Five threats made over weekend

Monday’s incident comes police were kept busy with five different bomb threats over the weekend.

READ MORE: Halifax police investigate several hoax bomb threats

At 1:30 a.m. Sunday, RCMP say a man called police saying he was in the parking lot of Cole Harbour Place with bombs and a hunting rifle. Less than an hour later, officers received an automated call about a bomb at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. Nothing suspicious was found in either of the cases.

While RCMP were dealing with those threats, Halifax Regional Police (HRP) were dealing with three incidents of their own.

At 2 a.m., HRP officers were called to Dalhousie University after a report of a bomb at the campus.

While on scene, threats were also called into nearby Saint Mary’s University and the Halifax Central Library. Again, nothing suspicious was located.

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Despite a spike in hoaxes, RCMP say they treat every threat as credible until it is deemed otherwise, even if attending bomb threats is a draw on police resources.

“The consequences of not taking it seriously and having it actually being a real threat, they would be devastating, so we need to put our resources all into it,” said Cpl. Jennifer Clarke.

Dr. Skye Stephens, an Assistant Professor at Saint Mary’s University, says there can be a lot of different motives for people who call in fake bomb threats.

“Sometimes students might call in a bomb threat if they don’t want to take an exam, that would be more of an instrumental kind of motive and it range to be more of an expressive or an emotional motive, so like seeking avenge, that kind of thing,” Stephens said.

Increase in threats in recent years

Statistics obtained from the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP show a spike in bomb threats within the Halifax Regional Municipality the last two years.

Number of bomb threats responded to since 2010:

  • 2010 – 13
  • 2011 – 14
  • 2012 – 11
  • 2013 – 10
  • 2014 – 5
  • 2015  -17
  • 2016 (so far) – 19

The Halifax Regional School Board says Monday’s bomb threat was the first hoax they’ve had to deal with so far in 2016. The school board says they do not keep records of previous bomb threats, so there’s no way to compare this year to previous ones.

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Dr. Stephens says something called a social contagion effect — where with increased exposure, particularly when it comes to violent acts, there can be copycats — could be a factor in the increase.

“In less than two per cent of the cases where people actually phone in a bomb threat it actually is a real threat where there was a bomb planted … so often times they’re hoaxes,” Stephens said said.

With a rash of bomb threats in the region lately, RCMP encourage people to be prepared in case they are caught in the middle of one.

“It’s really important for any type of business or establishment where a lot of people are employed or work just to really have a contingency plan in place and practice that contingency plan so everybody knows what to do when it happens,” said Cpl. Clarke.

Clarke says if someone in the municipality receives a threat, they are encouraged to call 911 immediately and get as many details about the threat as possible.

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