updated 12/15/2005 7:07:55 PM ET 2005-12-16T00:07:55

Tourism officials are latching onto the growing popularity of high-tech scavenger hunts, but law officers don't share the enthusiasm for finding strange packages in unexpected places.

In geocaching, people hide stashes in public places and post the locations' coordinates online. Other players — geocaching has an estimated 1 million enthusiasts worldwide _ use handheld Global Positioning System devices to get close to the treasure then rely on their wits and a keen eye to make the find.

John Kuehl, the eBusiness director for Wisconsin's Department of Tourism, wants communities to nominate local sites of beauty or historical significance. The state will then list the sites online by their GPS coordinates.

"The goal is to get people to move around the state," he said. "Then we'd have a trail that people can follow to see what Wisconsin has to offer."

Arkansas and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, list geocaching suggestions on their Web sites along with rules for proper land use. But some law enforcement officials are less excited about the geocaching craze.

George Sheridan, the sheriff of Delaware County, Ind., had a bomb squad detonate a small black box that turned out to be a cache hidden near a set of railroad tracks.

"I suggest that individuals who leave these packages call local law enforcement first and let them know what's going on," Sheridan said. "Otherwise we'll handle it as a suspicious package, a possible explosive device."

The South Carolina House approved a bill in May that requires participants to get written permission to stash or look for a cache in a cemetery, historic or archaeological site, or property publicly identified by a historical marker.

Violators could face a $100 fine or up to 30 days in jail. The bill is pending in the state Senate.

Geocaching players say they're simply appreciating the area's history, but the bill's sponsor isn't convinced.

"When I have a problem is when people visit someone's grave just to earn a point and a smiley face," said Rep. Catherine Ceips. "You still have to respect people's privacy."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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