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Los Angeles Tightens Security Ahead of US-Iraq War - 2003-03-20

US officials have implemented heightened security at airports and other possible terrorist targets. Security will also be tight at the Oscars, Hollywood's annual celebration, which this year will be more subdued than usual.

City officials say Los Angeles is now on high terrorist alert. Tuesday, Mayor James Hahn opened the city's emergency operations center, where all 45 civic departments will coordinate activities in the event of a terrorist attack," said George Gascon, the city's assistant police chief. "We are monitoring the military action to determine if there is some additional level of resources that we have to start dedicating. Also, we're monitoring the city itself to see if there is anything that starts to surface that would give us a level of concern."

Wednesday, Mayor Hahn announced a grant of $48 million to upgrade the perimeter of the Los Angeles international airport and two smaller airports in other parts of the city. The upgrade will include new fences and barriers.

He says stepped up security includes more uniformed officers on duty.

"We want to have that heightened visibility here so people know that they're safe, know that people are looking out for them here while they're at LAX," he said.

On airport access roads, officers are conducting random searches of cars, and there are plans under way to install additional cameras to monitor passengers.

There are flight restrictions over Disneyland, and throughout Los Angeles, the owners of tall buildings and shopping malls are taking precautions. Some are towing away cars left overnight in parking lots, and others are installing concrete barriers. Hollywood studios, already nervous about possible terrorism, are stepping up security at studio entrances, where bomb-sniffing dogs have been checking incoming cars for more than a year.

Meanwhile, officials of the motion picture academy say the show will go on Sunday, when the Oscars are planned in Hollywood, but security will be tighter than ever before in the Oscar's 75-year history.

One change is planned this year: There will be no red carpet for the stars at the entrance of the Kodak Theater, where cheering fans and eager reporters usually greet celebrities.

"The traditional splashy red carpet arrivers line will be truncated," said Gil Cates, the producer of the Oscar telecast. "The portions of the arrivals press line that existed last year on Hollywood Boulevard will be eliminated."

Police have issued a permit to antiwar demonstrators who plan a protest Sunday a just few blocks from the Oscars. At small protests during the week, activists promised mass gatherings over the weekend.

Police say they are used to dealing with protests of various kinds, which don't often get unruly. They worry instead that terrorists may get past security barriers with weapons or other implements of destruction.