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Officials ask residents to stay alert

December 23, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Tri-State area law enforcement agencies have stepped up patrols and emergency service officials are asking residents to be more aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious activities to authorities in light of the country's raised terror status.

The Department of Homeland Security on Sunday raised the terror alert level from elevated, or yellow, to high, or orange.

A high condition means there is a high risk of terrorist attack, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

Orange is the second highest level on the Homeland Security Advisory System. A severe condition, or red is the highest level.

The terror threat level was raised because U.S. intelligence "received a substantial increase in the volume of threat-related intelligence reports," according the Department of Homeland Security.

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Trooper Edward Asbury, of the Pennsylvania State Police in Chambersburg, Pa., said Monday that troopers have begun making regular visits to places that attract crowds, including shopping malls and hospitals.

Capt. Douglas Mullendore, of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, said deputies have increased patrols at Hagerstown Regional Airport and at public utility sites, including water and sewer plants.

"We're checking the places that you would expect us to check," Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said.

Steve Allen, director of the Berkeley County Office of Emergency Services, said law enforcement officers there will keep an eye on possible terrorist targets, including public transportation routes.

Allen said people should not be frightened by the raised terror alert, but he cautioned them to be vigilant of any suspicious behavior and report it to police.

Asbury agreed.

"Anything that may look unusual, please let somebody know," he said.

People "should be cognizant of any activity that looks suspicious," Mullendore said. "We don't want to raise their fear, but we'd like them to be (alert) and give us a call as soon as possible."

Allen urged residents to use common sense in daily activities, even if it's cleaning up a detergent spill at a Laundromat, so the spill isn't mistaken for a hazardous agent, for example.

"Don't leave unattended packages in front of public buildings," Allen said. "These things can do more to stir up the public more than anything else."

In addition to increased awareness, the Washington County Department of Emergency Services has asked residents to keep family members informed of their whereabouts and to make emergency plans and prepare emergency kits.

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