Police increasing presence for the Fourth

High terrorism alert prompts extra measures

July 02, 2002|By Jay Parsons and Del Quentin Wilber | Jay Parsons and Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Police departments across Maryland are beefing up security and adding patrols for the Fourth of July amid warnings from federal authorities that terrorists might strike on America's birthday.

Public officials declined to reveal specifics about counter-terrorism measures, saying that they did not want to help terrorists find holes in security preparations. But people will likely notice more police on the streets, they said.

"It will be a heightened state of alert, and you'll probably see a greater police presence," said Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley. "In essence what it means is, it's going to be a higher number of police officers on the streets and a higher level of vigilance."

O'Malley and other officials encouraged revelers to be watchful.

"They should absolutely call police," O'Malley said. "If you see something suspicious, call 911. The FBI can't get there as quickly as we can."

In Baltimore, police will be checking cars and adding foot patrols at the Inner Harbor for the annual fireworks show. Police will also be flying overhead in helicopters and using high-tech surveillance cameras to spot suspicious activity.

"We're at war," Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris said. "We can't stress this enough. There are threats to our country. We know [terrorists] are here."

Law enforcement authorities are also deploying more officers in Baltimore, Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel and Carroll counties, although officials said they usually put extra police on the street for Independence Day.

"We always have a very, very, very large deployment of officers" on the Fourth of July, said Baltimore County Police Spokesman Bill Toohey.

At Fort Meade in Odenton, officials said they have canceled the annual Meadefest July Fourth carnival because of security concerns.

"It was not made without considerable thought and discussion, but in the end, it was the safety of the community that sealed our decision," said Ingrid Lindberg, acting director of community activities at Fort Meade.

The Naval Academy remains in the heightened state of security it adopted after Sept. 11. Guards will not allow large bags, picnic baskets or fireworks on campus, and civilians must enter on foot.

The increased security comes after the FBI issued a secret alert last week to local police departments, warning authorities about a possible terrorist attack on the Fourth of July. The FBI did not make the warning public because officials concluded the threat was too vague.

"The FBI possesses no information indicating a specific and credible threat related to the July 4 Independence Day time frame," the FBI message said. "However, the political and cultural significance of this date warrants increased vigilance."

Sun staff writers Laura Vozzella, Ariel Sabar, Sheridan Lyons and Jackie Powder contributed to this article.

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