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Geocaching Shuts Down British Town 282

Posted by samzenpus
from the everyone-panic dept.
DaveAtWorkAnnoyingly writes "Many geocachers will be thinking twice when planting their treasure in an urban space as one geocacher found out in England after the police cordoned off the center of a small West Yorkshire town and the Bomb Squad was called in. From the article: 'It was a normal busy Friday morning in the small West Yorkshire market town of Wetherby when someone working in a café spotted a man acting a bit suspiciously on the street. He appeared to have a small plastic box in his hand and after fiddling with the container he bent down and hid it under a flower box standing on the pavement. He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone.'"
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Geocaching Shuts Down British Town

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  • Honestly... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:46AM (#36679828)

    People need to lighten up. This is getting out of hand.

    • Honestly... considering the number of "caches" everywhere and in London [geocaching.com], I'm surprised that problem doesn't happen more often.
    • by symes (835608)

      Sleepy English towns and villages can be like this, more so in Scotland and Wales - it's not just people with plastic boxes that raise eyebrows. Just not being local can be enough. On a recent excursion I became centre of attention in the local pub for no other reason than it was my first time there. American Warewolf in London? It is all true (except for the warewolf bit).

      • by gomiam (587421)
        Yes, they have already seen American werewolves. Warevolves are something new :P
      • Re:Honestly... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by DrXym (126579) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @04:24AM (#36680476)

        Sleepy English towns and villages can be like this, more so in Scotland and Wales

        The UK is no stranger to bombing campaigns from the IRA, muslim extremists and even the odd loony. It is highly predictable that if you bury a suspicious package in a high street someone is going to ring the police. Not everyone is aware of some esoteric nerd pasttime that involves such acts.

        If you really must bury something somewhere like that, go get a policeman you doing it, preferably with a sheet of paper that explains its legalities. Better yet, don't do it in the middle of a high street and find somewhere more rural to do it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          The fact that this happened only days before the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London can't have helped...

        • If you really must bury something somewhere like that, go get a policeman you doing it, preferably with a sheet of paper that explains its legalities.

          What are the legalities? I presumed that this would actually be considered to be littering.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Agreed, but the British actually have good reason to be paranoid; unlike we US folks, terrorism is no stranger to them. Even though "the troubles" are supposed to be over, there are still a few fringe groups causing mayhem there.

      The British police actually gave good advice -- call them and let them know you're geocaching, where the cache is, and what's in it.

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        In my own experience, geocaches tend to be registered on central geocaching sites. That is, after all, typically how people know to look for them. Seems like the police are taking the incompetent ("not my problem") way out. Perhaps they should weekly or monthly print out a map of geocaches in their area of responsibility. Then when they get a call, they can simply look to see if a cache is known. If it is, casually send someone out to check it out. If its not, then a more prudent response can be justified.

        M

        • I never saw it stated somewhere officially but my own experience points to the conclusion that indeed Berlin police checks on Caches listed on geocaching.com. There is one in Berlin (http://coord.info/GC2XDG3) by the name "BrandVerein" which would translate to FireAssociation. The name actually is a hint to the cache's location, if you go there, it's obvious.
          Still, that name hit a spot with the police since for some years there is this series of expensive cars burning at night and lots of pressure on the co

  • Muggles (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daitengu (172781) * on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:55AM (#36679882) Homepage Journal
    Often times caches specifically state "DO NOT SEARCH IN VIEW OF MUGGLES". "Muggles" being those unfamiliar with geocaching. This is a perfect reason why to heed those words.

    no, honestly, this is dumb. the terrorists have won.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Seriously. I mean when did it become illegal to do what that guy did? Back off stazi, and get your hairy palms off our fun.

      • Re:Muggles (Score:5, Insightful)

        by mabinogi (74033) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:09AM (#36679952) Homepage

        It didn't, and the police even said they have no real problem with it, but would appreciate being told about caches in urban areas so as to avoid this sort of misunderstanding in the future.

        • Re:Muggles (Score:5, Funny)

          by Don_dumb (927108) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:11AM (#36679956)

          It didn't, and the police even said they have no real problem with it, but would appreciate being told about caches in urban areas so as to avoid this sort of misunderstanding in the future.

          It didn't, and the police even said they have no real problem with it, but would appreciate being told about caches in urban areas so as to avoid this sort of misunderstanding in the future.

          Either that or they just want to cheat

        • Re:Muggles (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:12AM (#36679964)

          So all I need to do is tell the cops there is a cache somewhere and they'll ignore my bomb?

          Sweet.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            Or just geocache the bomb itself. Hide it in plain sight.

          • by Urkki (668283)

            More like, they'll silently wiretap you and check out your history.

            So, if you have something to hide, you shouldn't do geocaching. But, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about!

        • by IrquiM (471313)
          Easy fix. Just register an account on geocaching.com and you have the full overview!
        • Re:Muggles (Score:4, Insightful)

          by digitig (1056110) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @05:47AM (#36680828)

          It didn't.

          Wrong. They gave the last person to find the cache (!) a police caution, which means that they now have a criminal record.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          His actions may not be illegal, yet the BBC article says he got a 'police caution'. While that sounds like a 'friendly warning' a police caution is recorded on your record for 5 years and can affect a persons ability to get a job, get a clean CRB check if they work with kids etc. etc. Effectively its a punishment handed out by the police without trial or jury as a way of improving their crime figures with a quick case resolution. People accept cautions because they think its just a warning without understan

        • by brunes69 (86786)

          I have heard there is an underground hacking community that tracks the locations of all caches worldwide... even down to the EXACT GPS coordinates!

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It didn't, and the police even said they have no real problem with it, but would appreciate being told about caches in urban areas so as to avoid this sort of misunderstanding in the future.

          One piece of geocacher etiquette:

          When you're hiding a geocache, tell the shopkeeper that it's there. It's not just courtesy, it's a necessity, exactly for cases like this. And if they're not cool with it, find somewhere else. Also while we're here, you're not supposed to hide them on private property. (Not suggesting that the geocache in TFA was, though.)

          There's a geocache hidden outside a science museum near where I live, which the guys inside have nothing to do with, but they know it's there. So if you go

    • Re:Muggles (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:07AM (#36679934)

      The terrorists always win. The thing people don't seem to really understand is who the terrorists are.

    • Or to boycott urban caches that are in full freakin view of an entire market district. Seriously cache hiders, in sight of Starbucks is not a good place.
      • I'm not defending paranoia, but if I were planting a cache in a crowded place, and receiving suspicious looks, and was still determined to put it there... what would be the problem of chatting up someone nearby (like a vendor that sticks around), showing how it works, asking where he thinks would be a good spot (just to engage, no need to actually listen :).

        At worst it would be someone uninterested, but capable of clearing this kind of misunderstanding before panic mode. At best its someone that thinks i

    • by sco08y (615665)

      no, honestly, this is dumb. the terrorists have won.

      You know, "if xxx then the terrorists have won" was idiotic back in 2001 and rightly parodied. Why on earth do people intone it as though it's a great profundity now?

    • Re:Muggles (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @04:35AM (#36680520)

      This is not dumb. Most people know nothing about geocaching. Someone looks furtively around and hides something plastic then scuttles off. You don't have to be in a sleepy town to call the police on this, it should be happening in large cities too.

    • Stop using fixed length fonts.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:57AM (#36679896) Homepage
    Isn't this the very goal of terrorism? To disrupt our daily activities with irrational fear?
    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:01AM (#36679906)

      I think those in power view it as a positive side effect. ;)

    • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @04:44AM (#36680558) Homepage

      It seems to me terrorists used to have some more ulterior goals (ransom, release of prisoners, independence, publicity) not just invoke fear. That is why up to 9/11 they expected hijackers to land and make their demands, not just ram them into buildings. This whole "it'll cost us a million to do and a billion for you do defend against" seems more like a style of guerrilla or economic warfare, trying to make the US crumble under its own weight like the Soviet Union did.

      I mean, it doesn't seem to me that al-Qaeda has much they'd really like to talk about, we're infidels and for the most part they'd just like us to die or throw ourselves to the ground and beg for Allah's mercy or something like that. It's not exactly like videos of them slitting captured people's throats are meant to bring us to the negotiation table. And the more they seem like homicidal maniacs, the less I feel like leaving that cancer to spread.

  • Not the first time (Score:3, Informative)

    by Pesticidal (1148911) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:13AM (#36679970)
    Bomb scare! [gps.org.nz]
    I'm sure there are dozens of other instances of this happening around the world since the whole geocaching thing started.
  • by RJFerret (1279530) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @02:46AM (#36680074) Homepage

    This used to happen a bunch, until the public became familiar with geocaching, and years ago geocaching guidelines changed to encourage clear plastic containers rather than the more robust menacing ammo cans that were favored initially (far more weather tight).

    Ironically, letterboxing is an activity that has been popular across the pond for decades, and involves the exact same process of hiding a container somewhere publicly accessible.

    But, you still will get over zealous officials who want to play with their toys and blow tupperware up, rather than look at the note on the container, or, you know, investigate.

    Link to the archived geocache listing [geocaching.com] (for which you need an account to view)

    Particularly troubling is this quote from the cache owner referring to the finder, "When I asked as to his fate, the policeman said it would be wrong to tell me what had happened to him but that he had been dealt with without going to court, but it would likely affect his future career. Read into that what you will."

    I could see considering arresting the woman who called emergency services over nothing, then releasing her give her honest mistake. But doing more than questioning the finder and placer? Preposterous.

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Since when has the public become familiar with geocaching? Of course they should check out the place, it could be a bomb, it could have been a drug drop, it most certainly did not look like something plain and ordinary. There have been small bombs planted in England in the recent past so it is not irrational to assume it will happen again.

      The actions of the guy hiding a suspicious object are about as foolish as someone playing 'assassin' on the streets. Should the police assume that every suspicious acti

      • by delinear (991444)
        There are currently almost 12,000 [geocaching.com] registered caches on the main geocaching website alone for the UK. If the police aren't going to take a relaxed approach then either geocaching will get banned or the police will be very busy blowing up lunchboxes...
        • Darinbob's point, I believe, was that it is not the responsibility of the Police to keep up the bizarre hobbies of members of the public.

          Remember, the Agriculture Ministry is not in charge of Gundam.
    • Ironically, letterboxing is an activity that has been popular across the pond for decades, and involves the exact same process of hiding a container somewhere publicly accessible.

      Letterboxing is common on places like dartmoor, where you can hide things under large stones a long way away from people. Hiding one across the road from Starbucks seems pretty unlikely.

      Oh, and letterboxing generally requires a bit more of a brain. Each one contains a clue to find another, you don't just walk to the coordinates that a GPS tells you to and congratulate yourself on your ability to do what a machine tells you.

  • by Lord Azrael (472884) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @03:03AM (#36680146)

    On my daily walks with the dog i one day spotted something in a silver box near the path and found it was a small aluminium box. I personally did not think that it could be related to geocaching at all and called the local polica station and asked them what to do, as in this case it was me who was afraid to touch or open it because i thought this is a bomb ... Well, one of the first things this police officer said was

    "i bet this is one of those geocaching boxes, that is not uncommon these days"
    So i asked him: "shall i really open it"
    officer: "yes, open it"
    "and what if it is a bomb and i blow up?"
    officer: "then i will keep my ears shut!" :-)

    of course there was nothing interesting in this box and no bomb at all. but i really had to laugh about this quite cool and funny officer

    • Why would you think that a small box you find is a bomb? No, seriously - why the fuck would you think that?
      • by AGMW (594303) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @04:20AM (#36680464) Homepage

        Why would you think that a small box you find is a bomb? No, seriously - why the fuck would you think that?

        UK People of a certain age look upon any strange object as a possible threat because of years and years of the IRA (and more latterly the RIRA) leaving bombs in rubbish bins (AKA "trash cans) and the like. Hell, they even left pipe bombs near schools [guardian.co.uk] and a pipe bomb could easily be a geocache!! Let's not forget that the US, through NORAID [wikipedia.org], funded these people too. War On Terror ... yer, now people are blowing the US up!

        It's been a while in mainland Britain, but the memories of pubs being blown up in London, shopping centres around the country ... any soft target where people would otherwise just be going about their daily lives, well, it leaves an indelible mark. Maybe the kids can grow up differently now as the current crop of terrorists seem only keen on the big grandstanding attacks, and of course the IRA (& RIRA) never had anyone even nearly stupid enough to consider being a suicide bomber, though many blew themselves up by mistake.

        Anyway, just don't leave any unattended bags or stuff when travelling around the UK ... and now you know why!

        • by xaxa (988988)

          Why would you think that a small box you find is a bomb? No, seriously - why the fuck would you think that?

          UK People of a certain age look upon any strange object as a possible threat because of years and years of the IRA (and more latterly the RIRA) leaving bombs in rubbish bins (AKA "trash cans) and the like.

          And "certain age" can be as young as "early-mid 20s". My school was evacuated three times while I was attending -- it was very close to the centre of the city (pop. 300k). At least one of them was real (but successfully defused) according to a Google search.

      • by Pieroxy (222434)

        Dude, are you for real?

        You really don't understand how an idea can get into someone's mind? Did you live in a cave all these years?

    • by mcvos (645701)

      It's official. The German police is cool. I admit I have rather limited experience with them, but what little I have is all positive. Very helpful, friendly, and even with a subtle hint of humor.

  • ... after all, she goes around hiding strange packages every year.

    While some disgust was expressed over a local ad campaign called, "report the suspicious, not the strange", it is essentially correct: we should be reporting suspicious activities, but there is a definite role for discretion.

    Sometimes you can even ask the person what they're doing and discover, "hey, this geocaching thing is cool."

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      This fits the definition of suspicious activity. The guy was obviously hiding something hoping not to be seen and then he hurried off.

      • by delinear (991444)
        "He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone." What about this sentence implies that he "hurried off"? Inventing suspicious behaviour after the event doesn't make the initial act suspicious. As GP said, there was nothing stopping anyone asking this guy what he was up to - if they had, he'd probably have explained the game and saved a good deal of time and public money.
    • by mcvos (645701)

      ... after all, she goes around hiding strange packages every year.

      And if there's one thing that Angry Birds:Seasons taught me, it's that eggs can do quite a bit of damage if they hit the right spot.

  • by physicsphairy (720718) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @03:23AM (#36680222) Homepage

    He appeared to have a small plastic box in his hand and after fiddling with the container he bent down and hid it under a flower box standing on the pavement. He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone.'"

    Why attack a flower box? I had heard the terrorists wanted to take us back to the Dark Ages, but, in this case, the assumption appears to be that they are trying to take us all the way back to the Triassic, before the dawn of angiosperms.

    • by jamesh (87723)

      He appeared to have a small plastic box in his hand and after fiddling with the container he bent down and hid it under a flower box standing on the pavement. He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone.'"

      Why attack a flower box? I had heard the terrorists wanted to take us back to the Dark Ages, but, in this case, the assumption appears to be that they are trying to take us all the way back to the Triassic, before the dawn of angiosperms.

      That's nothing. Some guys blew up bicycle recently. There was a heap of collateral damage too. They must really hate bicycles.

  • He appeared to have a small plastic box in his hand and after fiddling with the container he bent down and hid it under a flower box standing on the pavement. He then walked off, talking to somebody on his phone.

    Why attack a flower box? I had heard the terrorists wanted to take us back to the Dark Ages, but, in this case, the assumption appears to be that they are trying to take us all the way back to the Triassic, before the dawn of angiosperms.

    • by AGMW (594303)

      Why attack a flower box?....

      We had the IRA blowing up rubbish bins (AKA trash cans) on the street which is why there are still so few of them around (not that they blew them all up you understand, they were removed because they were an easy place to drop a bomb!).

      I refer you, if I may, to my previous post here [slashdot.org].

  • Remember Warrington (Score:5, Informative)

    by fremsley471 (792813) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @03:31AM (#36680258)

    This is not an over-reaction. Here in the UK, terrorism on such a scale used to happen pretty regularly- for example, see the children killed in the second attack here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warrington_bomb_attacks [wikipedia.org]. Political agreement in Northern Ireland mostly halted the war, but one positive thing that came out of September 11th was the extinguishing of monies and good-will from the US for any sort of terrorism.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It used to be common but even when it was we never used to freak out like people do now. Unless a suspicious package was left at a prime target like Euston station people didn't feel the need to react like that. Having been in said station when it was evacuated for just that very reason the reaction was for people to calmly make there way out the station. Now people would probably run screaming for the exit.

      Why the difference? The government needed to keep a sense off sturdy resilence because there was an a

      • by fremsley471 (792813) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @04:13AM (#36680444)

        I was in a pub in central London one autumn Saturday afternoon in 1992. Police hassled us to leave quickly, i.e. "freaking out", and I remember thinking, "Hey, what's the fuss?" The next week, a bomb left in the same pub killed one (barman) and injured 4 others. Also what's changed is that coded warnings and the expectation of a reductions in casualties are now not expected.

        Totally agreed however, that most security theatre is useless and serves mainly as a way for the ruling classes to completely isolate themselves from the rest of us (literally) poor buggers. But don't hide things under litter bins then expect people to have short memories.

      • by AGMW (594303)
        If I had mod points I'd mod you up ... even posted as an AC! People were calm and stoical about it in that almost comical 'British stiff upper lip' sort of way, whereas now we massively over react. I think back then we collectively decided that just getting on with it was our way of fighting back in some small way, whereas now we think the Government should protect us! On the back of that, we've had our freedoms curtailed and the Gov has more power over us now than it ever had before. They use Terrorism as
        • by jonbryce (703250)

          If you compare and contrast the 7/7 or 21/7 bombings to how Americans reacted to 9/11, I think we were very calm, stiff upper lip Brits who got on with clearing up the mess.

  • The headline should be "Terror paranoia shuts down british town", geocaching was only involved by random chance. If you write about it, name the real culprit.

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Thursday July 07, 2011 @03:43AM (#36680318) Homepage

    Why was he given a police caution ? He did nothing illegal, nothing that police had previously been asked to be told about, so why a caution ? Yes what he did accidentally caused some disruption; but this was not intended.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      They could have charged him for breach of the peace on the basis that his actions were reckless and could have caused fear and alarm.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      They cautioned him to use common sense. It is only common sense to want to have others use common sense. Common sense says to warn the police when you start surreptitiously hiding mysterious packages.

    • by isorox (205688)

      Why was he given a police caution ? He did nothing illegal, nothing that police had previously been asked to be told about, so why a caution ? Yes what he did accidentally caused some disruption; but this was not intended.

      Did he get a caution? Or is it some in-experienced beeb hack that's interpreting "The police talked to him [to find out it was innocent]" and linked that to an official police caution.

      My bet's on the latter.

  • Boston has massively overreacted to so much innocuous stuff over the past few years I had fully expected it to be them again.
    This time it was the U.K., go figure...
  • Many geocachers will be thinking twice when planting their treasure

    Unfortunately no one will be thinking twice before re-enacting their own version of chicken little and calling the police for every little thing.

  • I may have been living under a rock...

      but yeah understandably if someone leaves a 'bomb' you'd take precautions.

  • I've cached for a number of years, and learned the benefits of having a quick chat with local businesses before planting full-on urban caches. Not only could it put them at ease, but it's also another group of people that would be "in the know" should someone unfamiliar with the sport panic about it.

    The main thing that I found was that, in nearly all cases, local businesses were thrilled with the idea of a dedicated group of people actively travelling to an area near to their business! Many went so far as

  • Found one GC1WPTQ that has a note from July 3 "Disabled at the request of the police ..."
    The best thing is the previous find where the player wrote "My word this took some finding - amongst the trying to look natural as muggles walking doggles streamed by"

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