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Local News

Charlotte Still A Priority For Homeland Security

http://66.225.205.104/JR20110909.mp3

Events marking the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 terror attacks are scheduled across the Charlotte area this weekend. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police have stepped up security because the anniversary is an attractive target for attack. However, officials emphasize they are not aware of any specific threat. Local law enforcement agencies have been busy improving the security of Charlotte since 9-11. As airplanes were crashing into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, Charlotte-area law enforcement agencies happened to be gathered at the old Coliseum for pre-scheduled terror-response drill. The exercise quickly turned to reality as police worked to evacuate and secure Charlotte's Uptown high rises. Ten years later, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Maria Jocys says Charlotte still ranks high on the agency's list of areas for concern. "I think as a banking center, Charlotte is up there as a priority as far as the potential for something to happen here," said Jocys at a WFAE public forum Thursday night about the status of homeland security in Charlotte. She says one of the most significant changes triggered by 9-11 is that the FBI and local police now more openly exchange information and leads. While the change in security since 9-11 is most obvious for people at the airport, CMPD Major Glen Neimeyer says many other steps have been taken to secure the region since 9-11. Detailed attack protection and response plans have now been drafted to protect hundreds of critical sites in the community - from nuclear plants to high rises to hospitals and water treatment plants. "Most of this is behind the scenes, but a lot has occurred," says Neimeyer. "Without being able to say what that is, it doesn't surprise me that most people haven't noticed it." Because of Charlotte's size and potential for threat, the Department of Homeland Security has funneled millions into the region since 9-11. At one point, as much as $8 million. Now that figure is about $3.5 million, says Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan, who coordinates homeland security funds for the region. The money has been used to plan for and practice responding to terror threats, as well as acquiring new technology so police, fire and emergency responders can communicate during a crisis.