Balto. Co. police step up patrols at terrorist targets

Officials plan educational campaign for residents

March 22, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County police have stepped up patrols at sites that have been identified as possible targets for terrorists, and government officials plan an education campaign to inform residents how they can prepare for emergencies, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said yesterday.

As soon as the bombing started in Iraq, the county activated its command and control center, a place where police and fire officials can monitor the county and coordinate a response to any incident. Additional security measures have been in place since the nation's terrorism alert was raised to code orange Monday night.

"It's important not to feel fearful with what's going on in the world," Smith said yesterday during a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center in Towson. "We can be confident our first-responders are well-prepared."

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. also sought to reassure the public yesterday that the state is taking appropriate steps to increase security. He said he has been receiving regular briefings on foreign and domestic intelligence, and that state Cabinet secretaries have reviewed their emergency preparedness plans and made changes because of the heightened state of security.

"Visitors to state office buildings and state facilities will notice increased security," Ehrlich said, adding that state police made 905 patrol checks of vehicles within the past 24 hours. The National Guard has not been deployed, however, to safeguard sensitive sites such as dams and airports, Ehrlich said.

Smith said there have been no threats against Baltimore County, but he asked residents to remain vigilant and to report anything unusual to the police.

The elevated alert level is costing the county an additional $45,000 to $50,000 a week for police overtime, Smith said.

Smith refused to provide even a general description of what locations are receiving extra security or to confirm the location of the county's command and control center.

"I can assure you, the more-protected targets know they are being protected," Smith said. "I don't have to reassure those entities they are getting additional security."

In the coming weeks, the county will hold workshops on emergency preparedness in different parts of the county, but dates and times have not yet been determined.

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