Police in Northern Virginia are on a heightened state of alert as a new law enforcement alert warned of a potential threat against malls and shopping centers located just outside of Washington, D.C. The threat originated with ISIS and is the basis for the alert, sources told CBS News
“We have increased our police presence throughout the county to include major thoroughfares, transit hubs, shopping plazas and shopping malls,” Fairfax County police chief Kevin Davis said Friday.
Police said the increased law enforcement presence will be in place through the Halloween weekend and ahead of Virginia’s gubernatorial election. Law enforcement officials said they are acting out of an abundance of caution, and as they learn more about the threat, the increased law enforcement presence could be extended through Tuesday’s election.
“It’s just our responsibility to have a greater presence, to be more aware and to ask the community to have their eyes and ears peeled for suspicious activities,” Davis said.
ISIS has been more active since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. Officials say threats from the international terrorist group and al Qaeda are accelerating.
The Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence chief John Cohen said this week that the terror groups want individuals to act on their own — so-called lone wolf attacks — overseas and at home.
“Right now we’re seeing a dramatic increase — or an increase — in online activity by media operations associated with different al Qaeda elements and Islamic State,” Cohen said.
The Arlington County Police Department and the Loudon County Sheriff’s Office said they were not aware of any specific threats in their areas. Still, they encouraged people to be vigilant.