‘Alert’ is key word

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Messenger Publisher

As the nation comes remains under a heightened alert status –

meaning that federal officials are warning of possible terrorist attacks associated with the Fourth of July – local law enforcement officials are asking residents to be more alert, as well.

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"What law enforcement needs is for the public to be aware," said Troy Police Chief Anthony Everage. "There are a lot more eyes out there than just ours, and if anything seems suspicious, we want to be notified."

The government has put the nation on "yellow" alert status – the middle of five levels. The status is part of the homeland security plan put into place after the deadly Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and it is designed to indicate the level of threat that exists in the nation at any time.

Everage said while he is aware of no specific threats to Troy or the Pike County area – just as officials have indicated no specific threats on a national level – his staff is responding to the national "heightened alert" status for the Fourth of July.

"We have to be as alert as possible," he said.

That means that the police department probably will increase its presence at the annual Fourth of July celebration at the Troy Sportsplex. "We’re going to have to decide" if officers will search bags and vehicles of individuals attending the celebration, he added.

"That’s something we intend to discuss," he said.

However, he said, concerns over the alert status should not interfere with Fourth of July celebrations. "We want to urge everybody to enjoy the Fourth, to go about their normal activities and not to let this put a damper on the holiday."

On Tuesday, President Bush urged Americans to "celebrate heartily."

Americans "ought to be joyous in their celebration and celebrate the fact that we’re fortunate enough to be Americans," he said. "They should also know our government is doing everything they can to make the homeland secure."

Gov. Don Siegelman said Monday that while security is being increased around the state in response to the heightened alert, residents should not let that affect Independence Day activities.

"We’ve got the Alabama Guard on alert. We’ve got increased security at critical places around the state. There absolutely should be no fear in anyone’s mind that this is a state and a country where they can celebrate the Fourth of July in peace," he said.

What residents should keep in mind, Everage said, is the acknowledgement that they must play an active role in protecting their communities against terrorist attacks.

"Everybody needs to accept as much responsibility as they can in their daily lives," he said. "It’s going to take a lot of effort as a nation, not just as law enforcement and military …"

More important, he added, if residents notice anything unusual they should call the police department. "We’d urge anybody to call," Everage said. "Nothing’s too small to call on."