Georgia security officials vow vigilance in wake of Paris attacks

There have been no specific threats made against Atlanta or Georgia in the wake of the Friday night terrorist attacks that left scores of people dead in Paris, state security officials told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Saturday.

Nevertheless, those officials are vowing increased vigilance.

“The realization is that there are individuals that don’t agree with certain ways of life, and so they feel it necessary to attack and create an environment of terrorism,” said Jim Butterworth, director of Georgia Emergency Management/Homeland Security. “We don’t want to respond to that, but what we do want to do is prepare and discuss and open lines of communication.”

The Associated Press reported that at least 129 people died Friday night when at least eight attackers launched gun attacks at Paris cafes, detonated suicide bombs near France's national stadium and killed hostages inside a concert hall during a rock show. More than 350 people were injured, dozens critically.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Butterworth, who serves as Homeland Security advisor to Gov. Nathan Deal, said his office has not recommended any “specific, overt action” to any of Georgia’s law enforcement agencies but is in contact with authorities wherever large events are scheduled.

The Atlanta Hawks’ game at 6 p.m. Sunday is the only major sporting event in the metro area over the weekend, with Georgia football on the road at Auburn, Georgia Tech football having played Thursday and the Falcons on their bye week.

Butterworth declined to provide specifics but said GEMA has been in touch with Hawks officials. He expected a “higher presence” of law enforcement at Philips Arena.

“Any action that we’re taking is out of an abundance of caution,” Butterworth said.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport spokesman Reese McCranie also declined to discuss additional security measures in detail, but described the airport as being “in a state of hyper-vigilance.”

“The airport is in close coordination and in constant communication with our federal partners and law enforcement agencies,” McCranie said Saturday afternoon.

The Atlanta Police Department provided more specific insight into their operations following the Paris attacks.

In a emailed statement obtained Saturday morning by The AJC, Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane urged officers to “remain vigilant and visible.” He asked for increased patrols “in and around shopping centers, theaters, public gatherings and other areas that may be [a likely] target.”

“While our federal partners have not provided any information about the incidents in France and there is no information on any current threat, please ensure we remain vigilant and visible,” Spillane wrote. “There didn’t appear to be any intelligence prior to the attacks in France, so we can assume if a similar attack occurs here it will be a surprise attack.”

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