Nothing funny about it

Published 9:18 pm Monday, October 6, 2014

Saturday’s bomb threats should have been the last straw for Suffolk officials.

In a city that has sadly grown used to having schools evacuated following the discovery of handwritten threats on bathroom walls, the latest epidemic has been bomb threats at the courthouse. The courthouse has been the target of several such threats recently, including on Aug. 28, Sept. 11 and Sept. 24 — two Thursdays and a Wednesday, respectively. A prevailing theory seems to be that someone’s trying to avoid a court date — whether as a defendant or as a juror.

But on Saturday, a day when courts and schools were both closed and much of Suffolk had turned out for one of the city’s biggest events of the year, a line was crossed. When one or more people called in two bomb threats for the courthouse area, thereby shutting down the popular Peanut Fest Parade, thousands of people were forced to evacuate the North Main Street portion of the parade route, and several parade participants were unable to complete the course.

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Since no bomb was found, it looks as if the whole thing was a prank. But it must take a special kind of ignorance to think such a prank has any degree of humor, especially in an era in which people still vividly remember the Boston Marathon bombings and even 9/11.

Not only did children and adults find their fun cut short, but several organizations that count on parade goers to patronize fall festivals and other events along and near the parade route wound up getting far fewer attendees — and, hence, far less funds to support their community efforts — than they have in the past. A day with beautiful blue skies that should have helped ensure record levels of success for those events turned into a bust for some.

That’s all quite disappointing, and it would have earned whoever called in Saturday’s threats the well-deserved condemnation of the entire community. But the addition of the nation’s ongoing concerns over terrorism puts Saturday’s moronic stunt into a reprehensible class of its very own.

Suffolk police are already on the hunt for the callers. If and when police find the person or persons who ruined Saturday’s events — and we pray they do so sooner, rather than later — we can only hope that prosecutors find some charge to levy that establishes without a shred of doubt that people in Suffolk are completely over the inanity of bomb threats and the witless bottom-dwellers who would make them.

Perhaps the FBI could help with the investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s office in Norfolk could lend a hand by prosecuting a set of federal charges. Considering a member of the U.S. House of Representatives was among those rushed off the street because of the threats, maybe there’s even a case to be made that the bomb-threat callers threatened the life of a congressman.

Maybe a 25-year term in federal prison for the suspect would convince potential copycats that there’s nothing funny about what happened on Saturday.