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Citizens learn tips to spot terrorists

Boot camp for the war on terror marched into the Town of Tonawanda on Saturday.

Fifty-five citizens began training at the Army Reserve Center to spot behavior associated with terrorists. The participants in the Homeland Security-sanctioned course walked away with a better understanding of the importance of being alert in a region filled with potential targets.

The Niagara Power Project, Buffalo City Hall, the U.S.-Canadian border, downtown Buffalo office buildings and Niagara Falls were some of the sites mentioned.

"It's the way they carry themselves, acting odd," said 15-year-old Sean Santiago, a Kenmore resident, when asked what he learned about the mannerisms of terrorists.

Ernest LaPlante, chief of the Buffalo Special Police, said 15 members of his volunteer group attended the class because they want to be ready if terrorism ever comes to Buffalo Niagara.

"We have the waterfront and the border. If something happens, we'll know what to do," LaPlante said.

The free eight-hour course, held in the Pfc. Charles DeGlopper Center off Colvin Boulevard, was conducted by members of the Peace Officer Training Academy and funded by the Department of Homeland Security.

"This is our first class, and it's geared to people who aren't first responders. It's every citizen's responsibility to defend this country," said Academy Chief Dennis Brennan, adding that most of the tips on possible terrorists come from civilians. "The course gives them technical knowledge of what to look for."

According to Assistant Academy Chief Kevin Pawlowski, it's the little things that count in determining if someone is up to no good:

People buying bulk amounts of fertilizer that could be used to build a bomb.

Suspicious-looking individuals taking pictures of buildings and locations in the area.

Out-of-place behavior, such as people wearing oversized coats or hooded sweat shirts on warm days.

Alert action could prevent untold problems, Brennan said.

Detonation of even a small nuclear device, the chief said, could cause extreme turmoil not only in the loss of human life, but the "billions of dollars" it would cost to clean up a site if access to it was possible.

The academy is planning several other classes, including one March 25 in the Village of Portville, near Olean. Additional information can be obtained at the organization's Web site: www.peaceofficeracademy.com.

e-mail: lmichel@buffnews.com

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