New Haven, state increase security after government issues terror alert

The Bush administration upgraded its terror alert status to the second-highest level Tuesday, prompting state, local and University administrators to staff emergency centers and increase security despite the lack of specific threats against the United States itself.

In New Haven, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. ordered that the city’s Emergency Operations Center be opened and that all city department heads be placed on a “15-minute alert” so long as the nation remained at an elevated alert status. New Haven and University police have stepped up surveillance of potential targets in the city, including the port, Yale and other sensitive sites.

Police and fire representatives will staff the Emergency Operations Center at minimal levels, but all pertinent city officials will be available “at a moment’s notice,” said Jim Moore, the center’s director.

Word of the government alert arrived in New Haven just as city officials were conducting a long-planned bioterrorism preparedness exercise, Moore said.

The mayor’s office said in a written statement that no events planned for Sept. 11 would be canceled and that no city buildings would be closed.

Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland put police and state agencies on heightened alert statewide. Rowland said Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge told him and several other governors during a midday conference call about increased reports of possible attacks.

Authorities in Connecticut already were planning to step up their vigilance around the Sept. 11 anniversary, Rowland said. The Office of Emergency Management, which coordinates state response to emergencies, opened Monday. Protection at the coastline and nuclear facilities was increased, too.

After speaking with Ridge, the governor ordered state police on T-1 alert, meaning all 1,200 troopers must be on standby and prepared to respond anywhere in the state within 60 minutes.

The FBI has set up a command center in New Haven that will operate from Tuesday afternoon through Sunday. Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force will staff the center, and the public can call the task force at (203) 503-5000 to report anything suspicious.

“On the one-year anniversary, I don’t believe anyone is surprised there could be intelligence information out there — confirmed or otherwise — that al Qaeda forces would like to invoke some type of terror on our country,” Rowland said.

–Yale Daily News and The Associated Press

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