Public anxiety over possible terrorism at home is rising with round-the clock TV and radio coverage of the war with Iraq and the heightened level of alert. But local officials in Los Angeles, and in cities across the country, are boosting public security and doing their best to reassure the jittery public.
Like other U.S. cities, Los Angeles is in a heightened state of alert, as police patrols are intensified at possible terrorist targets such as the airport. Nico Melendez, an official with the Transportation Security Administration, said "we've implemented the random vehicle inspections. We've increased the number of uniformed and plain-clothes police officers at the airports. We've increased, where we've had the resources, the canine explosive detection units."
Thursday, the city's mayor inspected the water system, also considered a possible terrorist target. Jerry Gewe of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power said contaminating the water would take large amounts of chemical or biological agents. "The key advantage to us in terms of water supply protection is the fact that you've got huge volumes, and consequently our primary job is to make certain that our perimeters are secure," he said. "So we conduct regular patrols, but we will be greatly strengthening our fencing and access control. And limiting the ability of somebody to get contaminant into the water systems is our first line of defense."
Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn said there is also additional testing. "We are constantly monitoring the safety of the city's water supply," said Mayor Hahn. "Hundreds of tests being performed make sure if anything contaminates the water supply, we know about it instantly."
Officials say they know of no specific threat against California targets. Ron Iden of the Federal Bureau of Investigation said the nation is more secure now than it was in 2001, when terrorists struck on the East Coast. "The public should be confident today that the citizens of Los Angeles, the state of California, and our country are much safer today than they were a year and a half ago, that every possible efforts is being made to strengthen and enhance the security of our nation and our communities," he said.
Authorities are asking the public to watch for possible signs of terrorism. Agents are also questioning Iraqi Americans, especially those who have visited Iraq recently or spoken with relatives there. They are trying to learn about possible traps awaiting U.S.-led forces now advancing into the country.