TAMPA, Fla. - Two bomb scares kept the Tampa Police Department busy Tuesday morning after a South Tampa resident called 911 about a suspicious package. Fifth-Third Bank headquarters received a bomb threat about their downtown Tampa location.
The first call came into TPD at 9:26. A woman riding her bike noticed a brown package under a blue USPS mailbox on Santiago Street and S. Dale Mabry Highway. When she returned from the gym 45 minutes later, the package was still there, addressed to the Tampa Bay Times.
"At that point, she did absolutely the right thing and called 911 and reported that there was an unattended package underneath this mailbox," said TPD Spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "If Boston had not happened, there is a very good likelihood the woman may have driven right by and not reported it. But because of the sensitivity in Boston, we are getting more calls."
Dale Mabry was shut down for two hours, sending a daycare at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church into lockdown, while the Regional Bomb Team worked to figure out what was inside the box.
Just as they discovered harmless garbage inside the box, another call came in about a bomb threat at the Fifth-Third Bank building on Kennedy Boulevard downtown.
Employees in offices that span about 20 floors raced out and waited across the street while K9 teams searched the area.
"Sirens in the office and a loudspeaker came on and just said there was an emergency in the building and to evacuate immediately," explained Kevin Harley.
Again, they found nothing dangerous.
"You have to be careful," said Mary Beth Manly, after evacuating from a conference inside the building. "It's par for the course given the events of the last week, unfortunately."
Tampa Police have seen a slight increase in calls about suspicious packages or explosives since the bombings at the Boston Marathon. They've increased staffing of bomb-sniffing K9 teams in order to respond to them all.
Coincidentally, the Regional Bomb Team's training at Raymond James Tuesday was interrupted by the scare. Officer TIm Bergman and "Indo" left to sweep a few floors in the downtown building.
"He can sniff and see almost what's inside of a box and we couldn't. We'd have to x-ray everything," Bergman said.
Last week, officers also responded to a suspicious package at the Port of Tampa near a cruise ship. It ended up testing positive for a chemical commonly found in fertilizer. The dogs respond to such chemicals even if they're not mixed in a deadly combination.
TPD expects the calls and searches to continue, at least for the near future, and welcome the increased citizen vigilance.
"If you see something that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, call the police. Call 911," McElroy said. "Let us determine if it is truly a threat, because worst case scenario, somebody doesn't report it, and next thing you know, we have people injured or even worse."
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