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Apartment Communities, Residents on Alert About Exploding Packages

package safety

By Paul Bergeron

Hours after the Austin package bomber suspect killed himself Wednesday morning, the Austin Police Department urged vigilance to its citizens about handling packages, reports the Austin American-Statesman.

Police Chief Brian Manley says that although it is still investigating the possibility of accomplices, “we believe this individual is responsible for all of the incidents in Austin.” He urged the community to remain vigilant for other possible explosives, adding, “we do not know where (the suspect) has been in the past 24 hours.”

In an effort to keep residents informed and to attempt to calm their fears, many apartment owners and managers in the Austin area and beyond continue to relay information and guidance from local and federal authorities about the incidents that have occurred this month.

Six explosions have occurred, but none at apartment communities and none involved deliveries made by the United States Postal Service or delivery firms such as FedEx or UPS, police say. The first three involved packages left on residential doorsteps and were opened by those at the residence. Each of the first two, on March 2 and March 12, resulted in individual deaths and the other, on March 18, sent an elderly person to the hospital with injuries.

On March 20, a fourth package exploded overnight in a residential neighborhood, tripped up by a passer-by, resulting in serious injuries to two persons. Later that day, a fifth package exploded at a FedEx receiving center near San Antonio, the only to occur in that city. Authorities tell NBC News that the package was one of two shipped from an Austin FedEx drop-off center that was destined to be delivered in Austin. In a statement, FedEx confirmed that the second package has been secured and turned over to law enforcement. A sixth explosion occurred on the night of the 20th near a Goodwill store in Austin.

‘Everyone Is On Edge’

“Everyone in Austin, and across the country, is on edge about this,” Kristy Simonette, Senior Vice President, Strategic Services, Camden, said the morning of the 20th. “We have communicated with our residents. We are following the directions of the local authorities.”

Following is Camden’s resident message:

“We are following the local news regarding the current package related events occurring in the Austin area. We want to reinforce the directions provided by the authorities and ask you to be cautious of anything that looks out of the ordinary throughout the community. If you are ever suspicious of a person or package, authorities are requesting you to immediately call 911. You may also send tips to authorities by calling the Austin Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477 or Texas Crime Stoppers at 1-800-252-8477.”

Kate Good, Principal, HPI Properties, Houston, on Tuesday sent the following message to her staff in San Antonio:

“The San Antonio Police Department would like to remind citizens if you are not expecting a delivery to exercise caution if a package is delivered to your home or place of business.  Packages left by legitimate mail carriers should have a PVI label, which is a computer-generated postage mark that signifies that USPS handled the item.”

Furthermore, it is recommended to look for some of the following features conducive with legitimate packages such as a tracking number (USPS uses a 22-digit number that can/should be verified at accepting scan, delivery scan or arriving scan markings along with markings identifying the city and date the parcel was processed. When in doubt, remember the following: DO NOT TOUCH OR MOVE the parcel, CREATE DISTANCE and immediately notify the authorities.

Good says that a few members of an apartment management-based Facebook group have posted comments that their communities will not be accepting packages until the situation is resolved.

FBI Shares Tips

The FBI shares the following in regard to handing a suspicious package:

  1. Avoid handling
  2. Don’t shake or bump
  3. Isolate and look for indicators
  4. Don’t open, smell or taste
  5. Treat it as suspect! Call 911

If you suspect a letter or package contains a bomb, radiological, biological or chemical threat: Isolate area immediately, call 911 and wash your hands with soap and water.

It also lists these indicators that a package could be suspicious:

  • Addressed to title only or incorrect title with name
  • Lopsided or uneven
  • Rigid or bulky
  • Protruding wires
  • Strange odor
  • Oily stains, discolorations or crystallization on wrapper
  • Excessive tape or string
  • No return address, or restrictive markings
  • Unknown powder or suspicious substance
  • Possibly mailed from a foreign country

The Department of Homeland Security and United States Postal Service have provided similar cautionary guidance on their websites.

Hours after a package exploded at a FedEx distribution center near San Antonio, UPS issued a brief statement, saying the logistics giant takes security very seriously, Louisville TV station WDRB reports.

“UPS is cooperating with law enforcement authorities in their investigation,” the company’s statement read, issued by UPS Worldport. “Due to the sensitivity of the investigation and seriousness of this matter, UPS declines to discuss any further details.”

As of March 20, more than 1,200 calls had been made to Austin police about suspicious bombs since March 10.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that an earlier hypothesis that the bombings “fell apart” after the fifth bombing showed that the collective events were not racially motivated or based on a specific neighborhood.

NAA will continue to monitor this issue and provide any updates.