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Youth have a blast at COP Camp

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By John Barnhart

The Bedford Police Department’s annual COP Camp once again proved to be a hit with local youth last week. All slots were filled and more children would have attended if the funds had been available to accommodate them.

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    The week-long day camp takes place at Bedford Middle School and the Bedford Area YMCA. The goal is to provide opportunities for positive interaction between law enforcement officers and youth. It also teaches the youth some valuable lessons.
    “My main goal is to show the danger of handling this stuff,” said Garland Snead, a special agent with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal investigation. Snead was at the camp Wednesday with state police bomb disposal officers Bill O’Dell and Francis Scott. The stuff in question was explosives.
    Snead places special emphasis on blasting caps. These are small explosives, they look like a firecracker, that are used to set off dynamite. Snead said that there is a potential for a child to find one and state police set off two of them to show what they can do. One, set off in an empty paint can, blasted the can full of holes with metal shrapnel, and blew the bottom out. The other mangled a pig’s foot. Snead uses the pig’s foot as a stand-in for a human hand to demonstrate that one of these going off in your hand would pretty much destroy it.
    “You can imagine what this would do if you hold it in your hand,” Snead said as he showed the campers what was left of the pig’s foot after the blast.
    Other demonstrations included a shoe bomb with a small bit of C2 plastic explosive and a watermelon with det cord, a type of explosive, wrapped around it. Snead said that one way police use det cord for is to blow hinges off doors. He also set off some, taped in a loop, on a sheet of plywood. It blew a nice round hole in it.
    Although he didn’t have any in the demonstration, Snead notes that black powder is something that children could potentially find. It can blow up as long as it’s dry, even if it’s inside a 200-year-old hollow cannon ball. Snead said that the static electricity from your hand can set it off.
    Static electricity can set off a blasting cap, too. Snead pointed out that, when he handed a blasting cap to Trooper O’Dell, the two men touched each other first to neutralize any possible static electricity differences.
    Another serious danger are homemade explosives. Snead said that trying to mix a homemade explosive from a recipe that you found on the Internet is particularly dangerous because many of these mixtures are highly unstable if improperly mixed.
    “If you find something that you think is an explosive, or know that it is an explosive, leave it alone and call the police,” Snead admonished.
    “Keep in mind that you do not touch explosives,” he said. “They are dangerous.”
    One non-explosive demonstration included the state police bomb robot. The robot used a water blast to blow open a briefcase. Snead said that they would do this if they have something that they suspect may contain a bomb.