OCEAN CITY – In the wake of multiple unfounded bomb threats made to local schools over the last two weeks, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza (District 38C) has introduced a bomb threat prosecution bill in Annapolis.
House Bill 121, officially titled Criminal Law-False Statement Concerning Destructive Device or Toxic Material-Venue, would allow law enforcement to prosecute the crime of making a false bomb threat in the county in which the threat was located, rather than from where the call originated.
“We need to make sure our law enforcement agencies have every possible tool to go after and prosecute those who are threatening our students and families,” said Carozza. “The high number of false threats targeting our local schools are causing major disruptions in our home community over the last several days only heighten the need for the General Assembly to pass this legislation this session.”
Carozza’s bill was first introduced by former Delegate and current Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Mike McDermott and has passed through the Maryland House of Delegates in past sessions.
“It is a no brainer,” said McDermott, “it is a common sense approach to bringing these people to justice in the county where the crime was committed, rather than where the call came from.”
McDermott said even though the bill passed through the House on several occasions, it never got through the Senate for “political reasons.”
“Ironically, I spoke with Delegate Carozza back in December about bringing this bill back to Annapolis, and I think with all that’s happened in the past few weeks, it has very good chance to get through both the house and the senate,” said McDermott.
McDermott points to a threat a few years ago when the threatening call was traced to Montgomery County but impacted the lower shore. He says this bill would make it so the caller would be prosecuted in the area that was most impacted by the threat.
“It’s a huge drain on resources and it causes a lot of fear in our area, so wherever the call came from shouldn’t matter,” said McDermott. “We should be able to bring those people here and convict them of their crime.”
Carozza has built up a bipartisan coalition of cosponsors, including several members of the House Judiciary Committee, while fellow Worcester County delegate Charles Otto is a co-sponsor on the bill.
On the senate side, Carozza says republican senator Mike Hough (District 4) has agreed to be a sponsor of the bill. Hough, who represents Carroll and Frederick counties is a former delegate and also currently sits on the senate judiciary committee.
“This bill is my top legislative priority not only because of what this means to our local community, but also because this issue hits very close to home for me since I am a graduate of the Worcester County public school system,” said Carozza.
Carozza said she also received support for re-introducing this bill from Worcester County State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby, the Worcester Sheriff’s Office, the Wicomico State’s Attorney’s Office and Wicomico’s Sheriff’s Office.
The first hearing on the bill will be next month in the House Judiciary Committee.
“The fact that we have a hearing scheduled already so soon in the session highlights the sense of urgency to move on this matter as quickly as possible give the recent bomb threats our schools,” said Carozza. “The groundwork has been laid and we have early bipartisan support coupled with the fact that this legislation has passed in past session bodes very well for success this session.”