Attorney General makes stop in Suffolk

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 31, 2002

When Virginia’s Democratic Governor Mark R. Warner approved a series of recommendations made by his anti-terrorism task force, he asked Republican Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore to make several determinations with regard to the state’s emergency response systems.

After a stop at Bennett’s Creek Pharmacy to visit with his old friend, State Delegate (R) S. Chris Jones, Kilgore spent time talking with several people there about their concerns on terrorists’ attacks on this nation.

Kilgore said Wednesday he is just as concerned about &uot;Homeland Defense&uot; as every citizen in the state. He said he is working to determine whether the state has sufficient legal authority to respond to bio-terrorism or other public health emergencies by enforcing quarantines and taking over private resources, including medical personnel and supplies, for emergency response.

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&uot;We are talking about the future of Virginia and the responsibility our communities and their agencies have to take in responding to terrorist attacks and bio-terrorisms,&uot; said Kilgore. &uot;We are also looking at requiring criminal background checks for employees working at places like water filtration plants or electric distribution stations. In most cases, it’s only state agencies or law enforcement that do criminal background checks. Also, we are determining whether Virginia’s laws allow us to enforce quarantines and allow us to take private resources, including medical personnel and supplies for emergency responses.&uot;

The attorney general added that he is asking the Virginia General Assembly to pass an anti-terrorism bill with stiffer penalties for those who commit acts of terrorism.

Kilgore said it is also necessary for communities across the state to provide more training in anti-terrorism. He is please to note that Suffolk’s emergency responders including police, fire and rescue, all took part in a week of intensive training that prepares them for a terrorist attack.

&uot;If we are not prepared to deal with these problems, then we are going to risk more lives,&uot; said Kilgore. &uot;If we have a bio-terrorist attack, the way we respond is extremely important.&uot;

Gov. Warner also asked Kilgore to determine if the state could suspend health professional licensing requirements, including those for out-of-state and retired health professions, in the event of an emergency.

Kilgore said he would like to see a resurgence of the &uot;Neighborhood Watch&uot; programs across the state, adding that it’s programs like that which make our neighborhoods safer havens.

In traveling across Virginia, Kilgore has picked up several ideas that he will take back to Richmond for consideration.

&uot;One of those ideas was for the &uot;Amber Alert&uot; program,&uot; he said. &uot;We have all been rocked by the disappearance of the three little girls lately. The Amber Alert program uses the Emergency Broadcast System tone to alert people that a child has been taken in a neighborhood. That would put everyone on alert immediately and they could be watching for the child. People listening to their radios or televisions could help us look for the missing child. It takes the people serving as the eyes and ears of law enforcement to reduce crime in our neighborhoods.&uot;

Kilgore also expressed his thoughts on the issue of local law enforcement, saying that he’d heard nothing but good things about Suffolk’s Police Department. He added that citizens need to stand in support of our officers and other emergency responders with respect to their salaries and benefits.

&uot;Pay for police officers across Virginia is low,&uot; said Kilgore. &uot;We lose so many highly qualified officers after we spend so much to train them because they leave the area to go to a higher paying department. We need to make a firm commitment to these officers. Some are near the poverty line and they have families to support. This is unfortunate because they are the people we are calling on to protect us.&uot;

Kilgore said citizens interested in keeping a quality police force should call their representatives to say that public safety is a priority in this area.

&uot;Suffolk is a growing area and it needs that type of commitment from its citizens,&uot; Kilgore added.