Suspicious package was a 'false alarm'

By Melissa Proulx
On April 25, 2014

  • Police were called to investigate a suspicious package outside UNH’s Forestry Building on Tuesday, but it was a false alarm. John Huff/Foster’s Daily Democrat/N.H. News Exchange

A suspicious FedEx package left on an outside mailbox at the University of New Hamshire's Forestry Building on Tuesday, April 22 turned out to be nothing more than a false alarm.

A little before 8:30 a.m. that morning, the university's police department dispatch center received a call from a worker in the building saying that the questionable package was left outside the building in a manner that was not typical for the delivery service. 

"Further investigation revealed the package tracking number was never registered with FedEx, and there was no record of the delivery. The packaging label also had some errors," said UNH's Executive Director of Safety and police Chief Paul Dean.

Though located on the university's campus on Mast Road, the building belongs to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service and is used as their Northern research station. The 30 people inside the building were evacuated. The State Police Bomb Squad was brought in, along with the Durham Police and Fire Departments, to assist the UNHPD. Dean also said that the FBI was notified of the event.

"With [New Hampshire's U.S.] Senator Jeanne Shaheen speaking at the facility for earth day, and building management having no information about the package, it was determined the best course of action was to render the package safe," Dean said.

After running the package through the squad's portable x-ray machine, the attending officials found that the box only contained a phone headset inside and did not pose a threat. The squad cleared the package and scene, though the building was still inspected afterwards by bomb sniffing dogs as a precautionary measure.

"It's not what's inside that makes it suspicious, but the events surrounding it that had caused the concern," Dean said.

"UNH Police later determined that a part-time employee, who was sending the headset back to the company, mistakenly put the FedEx labeled box in the UPS delivery container and some unknown person took it out of the UPS container and placed it on top of another outside mailbox," Dean said later in an email. "Since FedEx never picked up the box, there was no record of it in their system."

Senator Shaheen was expected to host an Earth Day roundtable discussion at 11:00 a.m. in the building. The talk was not delayed due to the investigation, and none of the activities on campus were disrupted.

Though the package did not turn out to be a danger to anyone in the building, the various departments that were involved did not downplay the threat.

"Taking these types of precautions is now common place and necessary," Dean said. "The safety of the campus community is paramount to me, and taking this extra step is department policy and essential to the well-being of campus community."

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