News

Cities beef up security for Independence Day

Cities beef up security for Independence Day

Photo: Associated Press

BOSTON (Reuters) – Security will be tighter than ever in several U.S. cities during Independence Day celebrations this week, which will see some of the largest public gatherings in the country since the deadly Boston Marathon bombings in April.

Security officials said they would deploy record numbers of police and install scores of new surveillance cameras and checkpoints around fireworks displays, concerts and other Fourth of July events in Boston, New York, Washington and Atlanta.

A foiled al Qaeda-inspired plot to detonate bombs in Canada’s Pacific coast city of Victoria during Monday’s Canada Day holiday – Canada’s equivalent to U.S. Independence Day – has underscored the security concerns.

“The increase (in security) is, of course, related to the Marathon bombing and other global events,” said David Procopio, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police, noting that Boston’s Independence Day events were reportedly the Boston Marathon bombers’ initial target.

The National Explosives Task Force (NETF) meanwhile said it has urged fireworks sellers in the U.S. to report buyers who raise suspicion. The Boston bombers used materials from fireworks to build their bombs, as had a man convicted of attempting to bomb New York’s Times Square in 2010.

The NETF said in an industry advisory that fireworks sellers should look out for people with “injuries consistent with experimentation with explosives such as missing hand/fingers” or who are “making suspicious comments regarding radical theology, anti-U.S. sentiment.”

Three people were killed and 264 injured when two pressure-cooker bombs loaded with shrapnel and fireworks-grade gunpowder exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon April 15, in the biggest attack on American soil since the September 11, 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center towers.

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the two brothers suspected of carrying out the attack on the marathon, had originally planned to set off their homemade bombs on July 4, but attacked earlier because they had made the devices sooner than expected, law enforcement officials have said.

Boston’s Independence Day events include concerts and a fireworks display along the city’s waterfront that traditionally attracts a half million people.

A federal indictment says Tamerlan – who was killed in a shootout with police days after the bombing – purchased 48 mortars containing some eight pounds of low-explosive powder from a fireworks store in New Hampshire in February.

Dzhokhar is in jail awaiting trial on charges including murder and using a weapon of mass destruction. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

Massachusetts State Police Commissioner Timothy Alben said the state will deploy record numbers of uniformed and undercover cops, install a ‘significant’ number of new surveillance cameras, boost boat patrols, and ban items like backpacks and large coolers at the events.

“Please be assured that the steps … are not the result of any specific threat to these events. We have no intelligence of any such threat,” he said.

Massachusetts officials have declined to provide additional details of the security measures, but said they were the result of collaboration with other police departments with counter-terrorism experience, including those in New York and London.

U.S. laboratory equipment company Thermo Fisher Scientific said it has loaned half a million dollars worth of handheld devices to Massachusetts police during the Independence Day events in Boston to help officers quickly identify chemicals that might be used in bombs.

Police officials in New York and Washington also said they were tightening security.

“Coverage includes large numbers of uniformed and plain clothes police officers, police helicopters and boats, additional mobile cameras, radiation detection, and street checkpoints,” said Paul Browne, Deputy Commissioner of the New York City Police Department.

In Atlanta, where there will be a Fourth of July fireworks display and an annual Peachtree Road Race, officials said the entire police force would be working, and surveillance along the race course would be increased.

“There should not be a single spot on the route that does not have camera coverage,” Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said. “The specter of what happened in Boston with the marathon on April 15 weighs heavily on our hearts and minds.”

Recent Headlines

in Local

Bill Approved to Address Elderly Abuse

state capitol pierre

The South Dakota House State Affairs Committee approved a bill (Friday) that would set up an elder abuse task force in the state.

in Local

Thune Offers Alternative To FCC Net Regulations

John Thune 913

The Federal Communication Commission voted three to two to issue new rules that would attempt to regulate the operations of the internet.

in Local

Positives Seen In New Internet rules

http internet

The Federal Communications Commission has passed new rules that seek to put some regulations on the internet.

in Local

Loophole In Iowa’s Underage Drinking Law

Iowa state capital

For the third year in a row prosecutors are urging legislators to deal with an "oops" in Iowa's underage drinking law.

in Local

Speed Limit Increase Clears Committee

speed limit

A bill that would raise the speed limit to 75 miles an hour on many miles of interstate highways in Iowa has cleared its first hurdle in the state senate.