La PORTE – Law enforcement officers spent several hours Wednesday investigating a suspicious package – which turned out to be a harmless geocaching box – which was left at a La Porte park.
Public safety officials closed the intersection of Monroe Street and Boyd Boulevard for about three hours as technicians from the Porter County Bomb Squad checked out the object, which was left at Hastings Park, near the crossing in the 100 block of Grandview Avenue.
About 11 a.m. Wednesday, a 911 caller reported discovering a "suspicious package" at the park. La Porte Police officers and La Porte County Sheriff’s deputies cleared the park after finding the object near the wooden train located in the park.
Members of the Porter County Bomb Squad arrived around 12:15 p.m., and employed a robot to inspect the object. A technician, wearing a bomb suit, also investigated the park.
The bomb squad then safely destroyed the object, before determining it was a box filled with harmless trinkets, meant to be used for the geocaching, a popular outdoor activity.
The treasure hunting game uses GPS-enabled devices, with players navigating to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then trying to find the geocache (container) which is hidden at that location.
An online search turned up more than 100 similar cases across the country, dating back to the early 2000s, in which geocaches were initially thought to be bombs and sometimes destroyed by authorities. That included at least three cases in Indiana – in 2004 on a park trail in Springville; in 2005 at a Walmart in Lawrenceburg; and in 2006 at an elementary school in Spiceland.
In the Wednesday case, La Porte officers cleared the scene and reopened the intersection about 2 p.m.
Police are still investigating, and do not know who called 911 to report the package, nor who left it in the park.