Police go on terror alert

Prince William County police implemented a special contingency plan Thursday morning to guard against the possibility of terror reprisals that may come as a result of war in Iraq, Chief Charlie T. Deane said in an afternoon press conference.

As U.S. Army and Marine units rolled into southern Iraq on Thursday afternoon, Deane explained how the county’s contingency plans have been adjusted to respond to threats as they develop.

The plans, which were finalized within the last few weeks, deal with officer deployment, protection of integral infrastructure and school protection.

“This effort is being made not because of any specific threat information, but due to an abundance of caution and in response to increased community concern,” Deane wrote in a letter addressed to Neighborhood Watch officials.

Police presence will be increased on the streets, by uniformed and plainclothes officers. Patrols will be beefed up around schools as well.

“We always focus on the schools,” Deane said at the press conference, adding that he and his top officials have been in regular contact with the FBI and regional law enforcement jurisdictions. “We feel very confident that we are receiving whatever intelligence information is available that may be important to us in a prompt and efficient manner.”

Prince William County police have been in constant contact with the area joint-terrorism task force, to which a Prince William County detective is assigned. County police are coordinating their efforts with town police and Manassas and Manassas Park police departments, in addition to county health agencies, fire and rescue officials and all other pertinent organizations.

Police also held a conference call with Gov. Mark R. Warner on Wednesday afternoon and conferred on what preventative measures had been taken around the state, and how those actions apply to Prince William County.

County police are also prepared for the ripple effects that would be felt by a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C., — a much more likely target than Prince William.

A good example of how local resources can be used to aid residents is the county response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack at the Pentagon, said Maj. Dan Taber. Local responses to a Washington, D.C., attack have been planned because of its close proximity to Prince William County.

“There are all kinds of contingencies in place to deal with something like that,” Taber said.

The county government has an emergency preparedness plan developed. The seven-inch thick book deals with how to respond to a wide range of catastrophes, Deane said.

“During these tense times, I ask you to be observant and attentive to possible suspicious activities, and to report these activities to the police department if you feel it is warranted,” Deane’s letter stated.

Citizens who are interested in forming their own Neighborhood Watch programs should call (703) 792-7270, and ask for a Neighborhood Watch start-up kit. Anyone looking to report suspicious, non-emergency information, should call (703) 792-6500.

Manassas City police could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

Manassas Park police are increasing their presence around infrastructure and schools, said Sgt. Karen Barton, city police spokeswoman. Police there are asking residents to be more vigilant around their neighborhoods.

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