Teenage would-be extortionists


The families of the three teens charged with an Oct. 22 bomb threat at Atascadero High School each will be billed $3,700 by the city of Atascadero for services and expenses associated with the false threat.

Had the 17-year-old students succeeded in collecting the $10,000 payment they requested in a threatening lunchtime phone call, they would have fallen just short of covering the scare’s eventual price tag.

City officials are optimistic that they will recoup the costs incurred by fire, police, and public officials during the evacuation and day-long search of the school.

Assistant City Manager Jim Lewis explained that although bomb scares themselves are rare occurrences in this area, it is a typical procedure to recover police and fire costs. Close to 30 city employees spent about eight hours dealing with last month’s high school hijinks.

“In this case, we have an obligation to the taxpayers,� Lewis said.

This is the first time in Lewis’ experience that costs will have been recovered in a bomb threat situation, but it’s standard procedure in arson and vandalism cases.

Lieutenant John Hough of the Atascadero Police Department agreed that the situation is unusual. Hough could not go into the details of the case, but said that someone familiar with the bomb threat’s background information helped them make the first arrest, and that the two other arrests were made shortly thereafter.

“The hardest part is finding the [guilty] person. In that sense it’s relatively rare,� Hough said. “But the city always has the option to pursue the families for restitution under city law.�

Diversion programs such as community service are typically available when individuals are unable to pay a fine. Failure to pay or cooperate could lead to a number of other options, including garnishing wages.

The bill from the city does not include the costs of the county’s three-person bomb squad, which cannot be recouped. The Atascadero Unified School District is preparing a bill of its own to recover costs, primarily overtime pay for custodial and maintenance staff.

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