September 28, 2006
It may surprise you to know that the war against terror is being fought right here in Charlottesville. The FBI has joined forces with local law enforcement to prevent terrorist acts in our area.
Government officials have identified Charlottesville and the surrounding communities as a potential threat area for terrorists, which is why they formed a Joint Terrorism Task Force at the local Charlottesville FBI office.
After 9/11 the government began looking every where for potential threats.
“I would say we have serious potential threats to the community,” said Charlottesville Police Detective Brian O’Donnell, who is assigned to the task force.
In this area there is a nuclear power plant, various historical landmarks, technology based companies, and government research groups, all potential targets for terrorists.
“It’s the kind of area that one might consider a soft target, but it has a lot of infrastructure critical to the United States,” said FBI Special Agent Steve Duenas, who is also assigned to the task force as well.
Another reason why the Joint Terrorism Task Force is focused here: terrorists could easily hide in remote areas.
“The number of law enforcement personnel is smaller and the number of places where someone can be living and doing what they to do is higher,” said Duenas.
The FBI says there have been incidents in the area. In 2004 the Earth Liberation Front claimed they set fire to some equipment where Target now stands. Last year a leader of that movement, Stanislas Meyerhoff was arrested in Charlottesville and charged with a series of arsons on Vail Mountain in Colorado.
Four men were also arrested near Harrisonburg for allegedly financing terrorist groups overseas. However, the task force's main objective is to prevent terror acts.
“Our main goal is to gather intelligence to prevent acts of terrorism,” said Duenas.
There are seven investigators on the task force. They include representatives from many local law enforcement agencies including UVa, Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
The task force is not common to areas this size and members of the task force say they believe their job will only get harder.