As coalition forces stream into Iraq, local law enforcement agencies in Clatsop County will be in search of anything or anyone suspicious that could be an indication of a possible terrorist strike.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has increased the national terror threat level to orange in response to the belief that "terrorists will attempt multiple attacks against U.S. and Coalition targets worldwide in the event of a U.S.-led military campaign against Saddam Hussein," according to the department's Web site.
With the threat increase to orange or a "high" chance of terror strikes, local law enforcement agencies and governments are advised to coordinate their security efforts with federal and state authorities, take additional precautions at public buildings and events, prepare to execute contingency procedures for terrorist attacks and restrict access to threatened facilities.
Astoria Police Chief Rob Deu Pree said his department is aware that there are few sites within Astoria that have been determined as possible targets for terrorists. He said he didn't feel comfortable saying what those targets were, but said his officers have stepped up their patrols around those targets to keep an eye out for anything suspicious.
"We're focusing some attention on that, looking for things that don't belong or people who look out of place," he said. "If we do we'll stop and contact them and ask them what they're doing."
He said the targets were identified by the U.S. Coast Guard and his department has been working with them to develop response strategies, as well as authorities from the ports of Astoria and Portland.
Every officer has been issued biohazard and riot gear, he said, in part as a preparation for terrorist attacks and for any civil demonstration against the war that could turn rowdy.
Clatsop County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Dan Laughman said patrol deputies are reminded during every morning's briefing about what level the national terrorist threat is and asked to adjust their patrol routines to meet that level.
As the threat level goes higher, deputies pay added attention to the county's infrastructure such as bridges, dams and other key locations.
"We routinely go by and see if something is suspicious," he said.
Aside from that he said the department will not do anything that different in light of the war.
Lt. Duane Stanton, commander of the Astoria area post of the Oregon State Police, said terrorist threats in conjunction with the war at the same time OSP has geared up its efforts for security around the county to prepare for spring break.
"It just happens to be a coincidence that the war is going off at the same time of spring break," he said.
The plans were therefore already in place to provide increased security. If the Department of Homeland Security raises the threat level to red or severe, Stanton said troopers are ready to take on 12-hour shifts to provide maximum coverage.
With a reduced force because of state budget cuts, Stanton said local OSP troopers won't have total coverage of the county's highways, but they will do their best.
"We will be doing everything we can in conjunction with local agencies to provide enhanced safety for the citizens of Clatsop County," he said.