September 21, 2004
Scottsdale mailroom employees detected a suspicious package last month within days of installing a new X-ray machine.
The box was addressed — incorrectly — to the Scottsdale Police Department. It was stained, poorly packaged and had a Mesa return address but a Tempe postmark, said Daniel Porter, Scottsdale’s municipal safety coordinator.
"These are some of the things you should be looking for," Porter said of visible clues postal inspectors give for detecting packages that may be bombs.
Mailroom employees placed the box on the conveyor belt of a new $35,000 Smiths Heiman X-ray detection machine — one of four purchased in the aftermath of the Feb. 26 package explosion that injured three employees.
The multicolored image that appeared on the screen heightened concern.
"It had what appeared to be batteries in it and a cell phone" along with other items known to be typical bomb components, Porter said.
Police were called and a bomb-sniffing dog was brought in.
The box was determined to be harmless. But it proved something.
"The guys did exactly what they were supposed to do and the machine did what it is supposed to do," Porter said.
The detection equipment is part of a $1 million package of safety improvements that were initially proposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
When a package bomb injured the hands of Don Logan, director of Scottsdale’s Office of Diversity and Dialogue, city leaders unanimously approved those proposals, which were enhanced and expedited.
Besides the X-ray machines, the city has installed more video surveillance equipment, increased the number of security guards and is in the process of installing more barriers to office areas in City Hall and One Civic Center.
Until the X-ray machines arrived, the dogs were brought in to go over each day’s incoming deliveries since the package bomb explosion, said mailroom manager Ronald Tatum.
"So, we were delaying the mail sometimes for up to two days," he said.
His staff spent two days training on the machines that Porter described as topof-the-line in durability.
Now, Tatum said, everything sent to the city, including interoffice mail, goes through the machines. The extra procedure slows down deliveries by about 90 minutes in the mailroom, where 2.5 million pieces of mail are processed every year, he said.