Copyright 1995 The Baltimore Sun Company
The Baltimore Sun
May 17, 1995, Wednesday, FINAL EDITION
SECTION: LOCAL (NEWS), Pg. 4B
LENGTH: 437 words
HEADLINE: Detective looks before he opens
BYLINE: Dan Thanh Dang, Sun Staff Writer
At 9 a.m. yesterday, Baltimore County Detective James H. Geibel was picking up a bag of illegal fireworks at a Woodlawn home. By noon, he was hauling several large boxes of black gunpowder and shotgun shells out of the Towson Precinct.
In between, Detective Geibel was sweating profusely in an 85-pound bomb suit while delicately analyzing a suspicious briefcase in a sixth-floor staircase of a Catonsville abortion clinic. An X-ray of the briefcase showed a fishy maze of integrated circuits.
After a huge police response -- including road blocks, 39 police cars and four police dogs -- the briefcase was deemed safe. A careful check, lasting almost three hours, showed that the circuits were nothing more than a calculator.
"There's an old saying that goes, 'There are old bomb technicians and there are bold bomb technicians, but there are no old, bold bomb technicians,' " said Detective Geibel, a 23-year police veteran who joined the county's police bomb squad in 1988.
"You can never be too careful."
A couple of days into the county's explosives turn-in program, things are hopping for Detective Geibel and Detective Jim E. Noel, his partner in the two-man squad. Besides retrieving dangerous devices, they also must respond to calls on incidents such as the one yesterday at Hillcrest Abortion Clinic.
The turn-in program -- which offers county residents a safe, no-questions-asked disposal of explosives -- began in 1974. Since then, officers have retrieved thousands of hazardous devices and material, including homemade explosives, cannonballs, gunpowder and signal flares.
Callers who report explosives through the 911 emergency number don't have to give their names and will not face criminal charges.
Today, amid such high-profile cases as the Unabomber and the recent bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, major cities across the nation require the full-time service of specially trained and equipped bomb squads.
Places such as Baltimore County, which started its unit in 1973, also are finding bomb units indispensable. The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said 423 explosives incidents have been reported in Maryland since 1989.
Baltimore County bomb technicians responded to more than 300 calls last year, including false alarms and routine incidents. Figures weren't available on the number of calls involving actual explosives.
Baltimore City and Prince George's and Montgomery counties are the only other Maryland localities with full-time bomb squads. Emergencies in the rest of the state are handled by the State Fire Marshal's bomb squad.