Local Homeland Security agencies vigilant after attacks in France

Local Homeland Security agencies vigilant after attacks in France

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - It's more than 4,800 miles from the state of Louisiana, but the deadly terrorism that unfolded in France has raised concerns that terrorist "sleeper" cells could be in the U.S. It has people in charge of local Homeland Security paying attention.

"We're kind of heightening awareness here in the state of Louisiana," said Kevin Davis, Director of the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

Davis said there are no known threats to Louisiana, but in his line of work, nothing is taken for granted. The Mississippi River plays a key role in U.S. commerce, and the Port of New Orleans is critical to trade.

"There's some critical assets out there who could be a target, so be mindful of it and be ready for it," said Col. Jerry Sneed, who leads the City of New Orleans Homeland Security Office.

"We continue to monitor all activities here in Louisiana and then disseminate those intelligence reports that we get from the Department of Justice federal partners to our local partners," said Davis.

A statement provided by the Port of New Orleans reads:

"The Port of New Orleans Harbor Police Officers remain on high alert and are kept abreast of the latest intelligence through our participation in the multi-agency Joint Terrorism Taskforce. This level of readiness is exhibited at all times by our Harbor Police Department and all federal partners, including the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with the assistance of local agencies."

And things are changing at U.S. airports. TSA has begun increasing random searches of passengers and luggage, and Sneed wants travelers heading to the city's airport to be prepared.

"Comply with what they're asking you to do. It's for their safety - nobody's messing with you. It's for their safety. Go out to the airport a little earlier," Sneed said.

"If you travel around, you're going to see more of that activity. Certainly it's one of the phases of law enforcement information gathering and making sure we're keeping our citizens safe in Louisiana," said Davis.

Sneed says he is putting local first responders on alert to keep their eyes open for anything suspicious.

"If something doesn't look right, question the person that's doing it, don't be afraid to ask for help, don't be afraid to ask for backup," he said.

And the heightened concerns come as the city is planning Mardi Gras security.

"We're already talking Mardi Gras and what we're going to do for Mardi Gras, so it's just one more of those many events that we have to be aware, not worried about, but be aware of and plan for," said Sneed.

The state Homeland Security Office has a way for citizens to easily report suspicious activities. The program is called, "See it, Suspect it, Report it." Go to http://www.lsp.org/help.html.

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