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Troubling letters spur police patrols at Boston schools

No signs of danger to children seen

Boston police are increasing patrols outside school buildings in the city, but believe that children are not in any danger after more than a dozen schools received disturbing letters on Thursday that mentioned Al Qaeda, Nazis, and weapons of mass destruction.

The anonymous typewritten letters, which were sent from Texas, contained no hazardous materials or specific threats to students or faculty in the Boston public schools, police officials said. However, the letters did spark concern because they included references to Al Qaeda and “all kinds of weapons of mass destruction,” Police Superintendent William B. Evans told reporters at a briefing Thursday night at police headquarters in Roxbury.

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Evans said police will beef up patrols around schools Friday, but stressed that authorities did not think there is any danger to students. Police did not name the schools that received the letters.

“Based on what we clearly see, no one should feel that their child is in danger to go to school tomorrow,” Evans said.

He provided few details about the contents of the letters, which appeared to be identical, but did say that they were rambling.

“There was some ranting on about some crazy language, but nothing geared at any particular student, nothing geared at any particular school,” Evans said. “It was just a letter that mentions the FBI. It mentions the CIA. It mentions, I think, the US marshals, the police. There’s all kinds of topics. It’s all over the place.”

Police said the letters also mentioned Nazis.

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Parents learned of the letters through an automated telephone alert that the Boston public schools sent at about 2:10 p.m.

“We are calling to let you know that today several schools received the same suspicious letter in the mail,” the alert said in part, according to a transcript provided by the Boston public schools. “We immediately contacted Boston police, who are working closely with every school. They have assured us that these letters, while suspicious, do not constitute a threat to student safety.

“We have directed all schools to be on the lookout for these letters, and if we receive them, to set them aside so the police can investigate. We want you to know that we take suspicious packages and letters very seriously and are working closely with the Boston police, who assure us that these letters do not represent a credible threat and that our schools and classrooms are safe.”

Despite the assurances from school officials, a Roslindale mother expressed concern over the letters.

“My children are precious to me,” said Karen Kast-McBride, whose two daughters attend the Irving Middle School and Urban Science Academy. “I don’t want them to be in danger. But I know my daughters’ schools are on top of security.”

The letters to the schools did not make any reference to the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15 or the Newtown school shootings in December, Evans said. Officials did not release copies.

In addition, police did not say where in Texas the correspondence was postmarked, but Evans said Boston police are working with the FBI to identify the precise origin. He said the letters were sent to more than 12 schools.

Police, in a joint statement with the Boston schools, said the Joint Terrorism Task Force — a group of state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies supervised by the FBI — is investigating.

A State Police spokesman referred questions to the FBI, and officials from the FBI in Boston and Dallas declined to comment, except to say that they were collaborating. A Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Asked if other cities had received similar letters, Evans said: “We’re working with the FBI on that. Nothing yet. Preliminary information [shows] similar letters sent from this Texas location, but nothing to another school that we know of right now.”

Evans said there was nothing in the letters stating why they were sent to the schools.

“In one of the lines of the letter, it does mention . . . just school,” he said. “But that’s the only connection. There’s nothing at a specific school at all. It’s just sort of ramblings. It rambles on all kinds of different subjects.”

Dot Joyce, a spokeswoman for Mayor Thomas M. Menino, said in an e-mail that the mayor was pleased with the response from police and school officials.

“The mayor is confident that the Boston police and the School Department are doing all that is necessary to inform our parents and reassure them that their children are safe,” Joyce said. “Law enforcement will do their job in working to find the individual responsible for creating these letters, and we are hopeful they will be brought to justice.”

James Vaznis of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Derek J. Anderson and Lauren Dezenski contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@
globe.com
. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.

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