Prank caller to appear in court

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

A 15-year-old high school student arrested Thursday and charged with making bomb threats from her cellular phone is set to go to court on Monday.

Because the Selma High School student is a juvenile the hearing will be closed, but city officials hope what happens to her will serve as a deterrent for others.

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“Hopefully, this will curtail some of these types of incidents,” said Tory Neely, SPD investigator.

Authorities had been working over the past several weeks trying to catch the caller, who at one time used a cell phone to call in four bomb threats in one day. The youth was nabbed by the Selma Police Department on Thursday and admitted she placed three prank calls from her cell phone.

SPD investigators subpenaed records from T-Mobile and traced the cell phone’s owner. Detectives contacted the youth’s father, who confirmed the phone belonged to his daughter. Police asked the father to meet them at Selma High to interview the student.

On Wednesday there were four prank calls placed – one caused the school to be evacuated in the rain just after classes began. Calls were made after the juvenile was arrested, and police said it was just a matter of time before that person or persons are arrested.

New technology allows the 9-1-1 call center to track emergency calls placed by cell phones. The other new aspect is the Department of Homeland Security, enhanced through laws enacted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy. This makes bomb threats and prank phone calls to public places a felony.

“Our concern is – and that’s why the new law was passed – this is serious business,” said Richard Bean, administrator of the 911 Board of Directors. “When kids play pranks like that, it’s just not funny. It is a felony. Homeland Security is not something for us to play games with. That’s why the technology has advanced, so we can make sure things like this are corrected.”

Bean said the swift arrest shows the consolidated communications between the city and the county is “a team effort.”

“We could accomplish more than we could when it was my turf and your turf. It’s making all of us more effective,” Bean said.

The juvenile was released Thursday to the custody of their parents. Police said she would have been jailed had space been available closer than Baldwin County.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. made a visit to Selma High on Thursday and made an appeal over the school’s intercom. Ray Mathiews, coordinator of auxiliary services for Selma City Schools, said the bomb threats were “disruptive,” and could instill fear.

“We had to check the building,” Mathiews said. “The state (board of education) suggests we have the teachers give a quick check of their classrooms as the children are exiting the building before sending anyone in.”

Mathiews said every precaution has to be taken to be on the safe side.

“We have to check things out every time. We can’t take the chance of anyone getting hurt,” Mathiews said.