White Powder Scares Cost Law Enforcement Time, Money

The substance turned out to be a silicon powder used in shipping, but the response involved 25 members of the West Jordan Fire Department and an eight-person hazmat team.

"This was not only a huge cost but it took away from our (regular) service," says Assistant Chief Marc McElreath. "We were on the scene about five hours."

Authorities say they get calls that end up being everything from powdered milk spilled in an office kitchen to sand in an invitation to a beach wedding.

But a significant number of the incidents involve powder sent to terrorize someone — whether from an angry spouse, disgruntled employee or someone who feels he's been wronged in court or by a government agency.

"It's a great ploy for someone to try to bring attention to something," says Edward Moffitt of the Postal Inspection Service. But "it's very disruptive. There's a definite cost every time they respond."

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