Concerned about terrorism, O'Malley wants a safer city

Consultant hired to help plan for emergencies

September 19, 2001|By Del Quentin Wilber and Caitlin Francke | Del Quentin Wilber and Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Worried that Baltimore could be a potential terrorist target, Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday he has hired a police consultant to help draft emergency plans, and that protecting the city from attack has become his administration's top priority.

"Every city and town in America is a potential target," O'Malley said. "The goal of these guys is to cause as much destruction as they can. ... Do we want to be an easy target or a hard target? I think the answer is that we want to be a hard target. And ideally, the hardest target."

O'Malley said he hired Louis R. Anemone, a former high-ranking New York police commander and colleague there of Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris - on a "handshake" agreement - to help draft emergency plans.

"He's expensive and worth it," O'Malley said. "He's an honorable man and we'll deal with him in the same way."

O'Malley said he doesn't know what Anemone's services will cost.

Anemone, who could not be reached for comment, arrived in Baltimore on Saturday, O'Malley said. Anemone has an office near that of Norris in police headquarters and will play a crucial role in revamping the department's - and city's - emergency strategies, O'Malley said.

Anemone has been working as a police consultant since retiring from the New York force in 1999.

O'Malley said the hiring of Anemone is part of his broader strategy to strengthen Baltimore's defenses and improve its reaction to a crisis. The mayor said he has been meeting with experts from the Johns Hopkins University and government agencies to discuss preparations for chemical and biological attacks.

O'Malley said he did not know when the plan would be finished.

In an e-mail to business leaders, O'Malley said he wanted Baltimore to "become the poster city for civil preparedness."

O'Malley declined to discuss specifics of his intent, beyond saying that he wants to fortify city buildings, increase security and improve communications among city agencies in a crisis.

"We'll see a level of civil preparedness that hasn't gone on since the [1962] Cuban Missile Crisis," O'Malley said. "We're becoming prepared for chemical, biological and other sorts of attacks."

After last week's terrorist attacks, city leaders closed many downtown streets and lined dump trucks filled with sand and gravel in front of police headquarters as a barrier to attack or explosives.

City police have since installed concrete barriers in front of police headquarters in the 600 block of E. Fayette St. Norris has said that protecting the building is a top priority because it houses the city's emergency communication systems.

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