How do Local Authorities Help to Stop "Homegrown" Terrorism?

June 23, 2006 -- Posted at 5:05 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- A thwarted terror plot in Miami leads authorities to take a harder look at ''homegrown'' terrorists.

Thursday night, seven men were arrested in Miami after a member of the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force infiltrated the group by posing as someone linked to al-Qaida.

So, what do local authorities do to help locate these "homegrown" terrorist groups before an attack can be carried out?

"Hopefully, throughout their intelligence networks, they'll pick up on these things and find out who out there is determining to want to be a terrorist," said Jack Richardson, Craighead County Coordinator for Emergency Management.

Local authorities receive training on what to watch for.

"Some of the officers attend meetings. They're sponsored by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. These are regional intelligence meetings, they share information that we've learned in our department," said Sgt. Stephen McDaniel of the Jonesboro Police Department.

However, it's not just police officers that can help stop a terrorist plot, you can help too.

"Citizens need to be aware of their surroundings: what's changed, what's different, you know, if there's something new," said Craighead County 911 Coordinator David Moore.

In the case of local authorities finding out about a "homegrown" terror plot, Richardson said they have procedures they will follow.

"We would notify a higher authority, which would be the state of Arkansas, which would then notify the appropriate federal authorities," said Richardson.

In light of the Miami terror plot, should we worry more about home grown terrorists?

"International terrorism is probably better funded than 'homegrown' terrorism is," said Richardson.

Richardson says the "homegrown" terrorists might be easier to catch than some of the international terrorists.

"Hopefully they'd be easier to catch than the one that's well trained, well organized, and backed with finances and an organization," said Richardson.

But, then again, "homegrown" terrorists can be more difficult to spot because they could be anyone.

"There are no front lines, they don't wear a uniform and they blend in," said Richardson.

The targets of the thwarted terror plot include the Sears Tower in Chicago, as well as several Federal Buildings in Florida.