Police teaches CSUN community how to detect suspicious packages

The Scanmail 10K is used to scan suspicious packages for contents that can be used to build explosives. Photo Credit: Antoine Abou-Diwan / Staff reporter

The Department of Police Services released a statement last week reminding the CSUN community how to recognize and handle suspicious mail and packages.

The statement was made on the heels of last week’s international mail bomb plot.  It lists a number of traits that suspicious packages possess and asks that police services be notified immediately if a package possesses any of these traits.

“We are trying to stay ahead of the curve,” said Anne P. Glavin, chief of police.  “People forget what the hallmarks of a suspicious package are.”

Although the numbers of suspicious package alarms are generally low, the Department of Police Services is paying particular attention to the campus mailroom, Glavin said.

About five years ago, the department invested in a device that scans small packages for parts that are essential to mail bombs, such as timers, batteries and electronic components, detective Dana Archer said.  In a brief demonstration for the Daily Sundial, Archer showed how easy it is to use the Scanmail 10K.  It lit up — indicating possible explosive material — when Archer ran through the machine a package designed to mimic a bomb.

If a package appears suspicious and sets off the Scanmail 10K, the K-9 unit’s bomb-detecting canine is called in, Archer said.

The bomb-detecting dog undergoes regular training and drills to keep its bomb-sniffing abilities sharp, Glavin said.

Should the canine determine that the package contains an explosive device, the matter is escalated to the LAPD, Glavin added.  The LAPD’s bomb-squad is qualified to dispose of an explosive device, she said.

“Fortunately, when the K-9 unit gets a package, it turns out to be a big nothing,” Glavin said.

People usually worry about abandoned backpacks, she said.

“We get about a half dozen reports a year,” Glavin said.  “It usually turns out that a student forgot where he left his backpack.”