Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Citizens in Ky. taught to spot terrorists

By William Croyle
Enquirer contributor

It might seem out of the question: A terrorist attack in Northern Kentucky?

Boone County Deputy Sheriff Christine Heckel thinks it's possible, and schools or malls could be targets.

"Look at 9-11 and how it crippled the airline industry," Heckel said recently. "If it happens at a school, who will send their child to school? If it happens at a mall, who will shop there anymore?"

Heckel is a crime prevention specialist and 13-year veteran of the Boone force. She is one of 15 officers certified by the Regional Community Policing Institute in Richmond, Ky., to teach citizens in the state how to spot potential terrorist activities.

It's not uncommon training since 9-11.

"It's an awareness program for the community," said Heckel.

The training includes videos from al-Qaeda but isn't limited to that. "Terrorism is not just from the Middle East. We also have domestic terrorism," said Ed Brodt, assistant director of RCPI in Richmond. "And the more eyes we have looking, the better chance of discovering something before it happens."

Heckel also discusses domestic terrorism from animal rights and environmental activists, including three attacks that occurred in Kentucky since 2001.

She notes that animal rights groups have committed arson, burglary and vandalism more than 1,000 times in the United States in the last 20 years, with 80 of those attacks each causing more than $100,000 in damage.

Her class teaches citizens not to profile specific groups of people, but to be aware of potential warning signs through the way people dress, talk or act.

"I don't really have a fear of an attack, but I like to be aware of what's going on," said Morris Hendrickson of Florence, who attended one of Heckel's recent classes. "She told me some things to be aware of and not to put all my thoughts in one direction."

The program is paid for by a federal grant. Heckel plans to present it to teachers in every Northern Kentucky school, as well as to businesses and residents.

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