«

»

Is This The Beginning Of The End For The Urban Cache?

We quite frequently see reports of bomb squad callouts for geocaches in the US, but a recent bomb squad callout in the UK town of Wetherby seems to have had a big impact on the game.

Coffee shop owner Karen Brittain called the police after she saw a man furtively fumbling with a sealed plastic box, hiding it under a waste bin on the street, then walking away quickly with a cell phone held to his ear. She’d not heard of geocaching before. Well, what would you do?

The police took the call seriously. They sealed off the area, evacuated the street, closed surrounding roads, and brought in robots to destroy the suspected home-made bomb.

The unfortunate geocacher in Wetherby, North Yorkshire, was given a caution – the U.K. police term for a verbal slap on the wrist – and told not to cache things in such suspicious places in future.

You have to feel somewhat sorry for kingqueen, the cache owner whose cache, GC2H9A2 Wetherby Shambles (isn’t that name ironic!?!), was the one in question here. They left the following note on their listing page:
Write note July 2 by kingqueen (16 found)I was the cache owner. As soon as I became aware of the suspect package alert, I phoned the police to identify myself as the owner and the cache as innocuous.
Good work for owning up. It would have been very tempting to hide and hope they didn’t find you.
Today the police came to visit me. I have got off lightly, but less so than the poor Geocacher who visited the cache yesterday and was arrested. 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.
We know from the reports that he got the equivalent of a verbal slap on the wrist. The scary thing to learn from this is that it is possible to get in trouble for simply geocaching. I also find it quite strange that the geocacher got in trouble for being hopeless at stealth but the cache owner, who planted a cache with wire and tape on the outside, didn’t get in more trouble for a bomb look-a-like. Kingqueen writes:
This was the first that this particular set of police had heard of geocaching.The police also got me to show all other geocaches in the area. They then instructed me to pass on the following message to everybody in the area with caches on or near the A1:”Sergeant Bilton – The device in Wetherby caused massive disruption for a period of about 4 hours. An estimated emergency services bill is around £35,000, not including loss of revenue for businesses who had to shut for most of the day. I can see from the website there are several next to or close to the A1. These need to be removed ASAP. If you wish to discuss it with me by all means please contact me at Wetherby police station on 0113 2855374.”

Wow, that’s a lot of money. Surprising they didn’t send the bill to the CO, though maybe they haven’t got around to that yet. That’s another thing to keep in mind when placing a cache and something that will make me think twice before placing an urban cache again.
Of course, the whole issue has lead to lots of debate in the UK and the Geocaching Association of Great Britain has even produced the following policy change:
“Urban caches should be placed to minimise the chance of security alerts. It is essential that micros and larger are marked externally as a geocache with the relevant listing site reference (eg: GCxxxxxx, OXxxxxxx or OCxxxxxx). Containers larger than 35mm containers should have clear sides to enable inspection without opening. Cache pages must contain the following wording: This cache meets the GAGB Urban Placement Guidelines”
This whole issue makes me wonder how long it will be until it’s almost impossible to place an urban cache? Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of them as, in my experience, they tend to be hidden around childrens’ playgrounds or in ridiculously public places. As time goes on it is likely that we will see more issues like this one in Wetherby, despite revamped guidelines, and each new incident will bring further changes to local cache placement policies. It doesn’t matter how many innocent and successful urban caches are out there, as soon as one bad egg is found, it tarnishes the rest.
Perhaps this is the natural evolution of caching in the over-sensitive world we now live in? Will we see a natural cycle in which the hobby returns to its more outdoors roots with the disapperance of the urban cache for a period of time? And if the urban cache disappears, will we see it return in the future like other unwanted fashions (flares anyone?)?
Before I sign off, it is confession time. I learnt early on that no matter how stealthy you are being and how sure you are that you are not being watched, someone can mistake your actions for those of a criminal. The story, in the words of the police officer who dealt with me:
Well tonight whilst I was at work I got a call from a concerned member of the public who had seen a car pull up, a guy get out and stash a package in the bushes across the road and then text on his phone before driving away.
Yes, the guy was me and I was placing GC23E3T The Million Dollar Pacer. The texting was me getting the co-ordinates.
I located said “package”, and immediately saw geocache printed across the top so left it where it was.I then went to see the lady who had been concerned and explained to her what geocaching was and that it was just a bit of fun.This morning around 2am I decided to call in to the cache and log a find. To my despair someone had left dog crap in the container and written “find something better to do” in the log.

Yucky.
It doesn’t take a genius to work out who would have been responsible.
Even more yucky.
Anyway I emptied out the dog crap, logged my find and put the cache back in it’s hiding place.If you are reading this and it is your cache get in touch with me via PM and I can arrange to check it from time to time. It isn’t on geocaching.com yet so I can’t leave any comments there.NB – I’m also pretty sure that the guy that placed this cache was the same guy that I gave a speeding ticket to (description of vehicle and male were spot on) about 5 minutes after he would have placed the cache. Sorry about that and I hope it didn’t ruin your day of geocaching ;-)

Um, yes that was me as well. 🙂
All this goes to show that A) I’m glad I live in NZ where we generally don’t have to worry about bombs etc, and B) there are some good police geocaching stories!

11 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. Lucas Smith on Facebook

    i was thinking about this and i found it some what a possibility but mostly funny that if this did end urban geocaching we geocachers would end up like the game mirrors edge XD still geocaching but in a underground style hahahahaha…. :O that gives me a movie idea…..

  2. Chris

    Just an FYI about the Wetherby Shambles cache – there was tape on the outside of the cache container, but no wires inside or out. The cache was also clearly labelled as a Geocaching with a huge Geocache label on the lid. There’s a photo of the cache on the cache page.

  3. Aranea

    Wow! Now why would the Geocacher get arrested and not the CO?
    I don’t get that…and I find that a little scary.
    I have no desire to get arrested for playing a legal game.
    I guess from here on in, YOU GIVE ALL THE STORE OWNERS THE HEADS UP!
    Aranea 🙂

  4. Carolynn Langley on Facebook

    a typical knee jerk reaction …. all the caches that are in the Uk in towns and one causes a problem ..

  5. ErikaJean

    Some times I think being TOO stealthy gives you away and makes people more suspicious. If I saw some obviously looking around like they dropped or lost something and they pulled out a box and SIGNED a paper with a PEN – I would be less suspicious.
    If I saw someone who was looking but trying not to look obvious, grabbing something and then putting it back all secretively I’d be concerned.
    Sure if you are less stealthy the cache May get muggled – but it’s a lot better than the bomb squad being called out!

  6. Robert Holdsworth on Facebook

    there is one cache in our region which gives me the creeps as it is close to a very significant institution, it is thoroughly camoed and has no external GC ID, though placed a little distance away to avoid security scares I still think acting suspiciously in this area could definitely cause a problem one day. Have found it but also have used it since to place or put in trackables, but am increasingly reluctant to do so, especially after reading the above article!

  7. Red Panda & Friends

    Did a cache in France L’hotel de ville GC1Q4N3 which was as its name suggests is right outside the Hotel De Ville, apparantly a hotel where varioius important folk are known to stay. When I say outside I mean on a traffic island with 2 or 3 lanes of traffic in each direction and hidden in one of 3 planters on that island (that was the total size of the island) It was impossible not to be seen by passing traffic and I felt it was only a matter of time till we were arrested. This effect was not helped when two men started heading toward us in a purposeful manner, luckily fellow geocachers from Germany. Perhaps the local police know it is there but it seemed a sitter for a bomb squad call out to me. Was glad to scuttle off with the find and no French criminal record.

  8. Carolynn Langley on Facebook

    surely the reviewers would have known this location!

  9. Michael D. Belanger on Facebook

    My geo-buddy & I had an experience similar to what Peter’s talking about not long ago in a nearby town; he was look ing for a cache that I had already found on an urban trail and was being a bit OO ‘stealthy’; some lady hikers/joggers apparently called the cops and we were stopped a bit further along that trail. We simply were open about what we were doing with the officers and they both were, like, “Oh, wow! Never knew there was a game like that!” We each gave the officers our respective “Geo cards” (and our ID when they asked for it) and explained the game to them; they ‘ran’ us and found we were ‘clean’, so they let us go and the male officer said he might get his younger child involved in the game. What helped was the fact that I’m a military Veteran and so was the male cop, and I was wearing my USAF hat that day (with my “Geo-pins”).

  10. Michael D. Belanger on Facebook

    My geo-buddy & I had an experience similar to what Peter’s talking about not long ago in a nearby town; he was looking for a cache that I had already found on an urban trail and was being a bit TOO ‘stealthy’; some lady hikers/joggers apparently called the cops and we were stopped a bit further along that trail. We simply were open about what we were doing with the officers and they both were, like, “Oh, wow! Never knew there was a game like that!” We each gave the officers our respective “Geo cards” (and our ID when they asked for it) and explained the game to them; they ‘ran’ us and found we were ‘clean’, so they let us go and the male officer said he might get his younger child involved in the game. What helped was the fact that I’m a military Veteran and so was the male cop, and I was wearing my USAF hat that day (with my “Geo-pins”).

  11. drsolly

    A police caution isn’t just a slap on the wrist. It means that you have a criminal record, and that can have a negative impact on your career.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_caution

  1. Waypoints — July 16th, 2011 : GPS Enviro Rides

    […] Arrested for geocaching! […]

Leave a Reply to Aranea Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Switch to mobile version