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The State

State Is Ready for Holiday Trouble

Safety: Officials plan to increase security staffing though there are no confirmed threats of terrorist activity.

July 03, 2002|CARL INGRAM | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Security officials Tuesday assured Californians that the state's anti-terrorist machinery is prepared for trouble during the Fourth of July holiday, but the only threat so far is a convention of Hells Angels motorcyclists.

George Vinson, homeland security advisor to Gov. Gray Davis, Highway Patrol Commissioner D.O. "Spike" Helmick and state Emergency Services Director Dallas Jones called a news conference to report that they knew of no terrorist threats to the state.

But, as a precaution, they said, beefed-up forces of state and local law enforcement officers, firefighters, public health specialists and other emergency response personnel will be ready to pounce on any terrorist activity.

They discussed California's preparedness to prevent or respond to terrorist acts as highly publicized but unconfirmed reports continued to circulate that terrorists might be planning an attack against the United States on Independence Day.

"We have no--I've got to emphasize--no specific threat information over July 4 here in California. But that doesn't mean we can go to sleep," Vinson said.

He called the state "well-prepared."

He noted that, since Sept. 11, California has adopted terrorist prevention and deterrence plans and refined state and local level emergency responses.

The state has also established a Sacramento-based law enforcement network to collect and share terrorist intelligence.

Even though no credible threat had been uncovered, Helmick said, the CHP will put a "maximum force" of about 6,000 officers on duty during the holiday, order its 30 airplanes and helicopters into the air for round-the-clock surveillance and pay special attention to bridges in the Bay Area.

Helmick and Vinson said that the only immediate threat to safety and peace during the holiday may be the fifth annual convention of Hells Angels in the dusty Central California farm town of Hollister.

Helmick estimated about 70,000 riders would attend the event.

Law enforcement officials had expressed concern about public safety in Hollister against the backdrop of a fatal gun battle in April between Hells Angels and rival Mongols at a casino in Laughlin, Nev.

Two Angels and a Mongol were killed, 16 people were injured and a third Angel member was shot dead as he left town.

"I'm not overly concerned about any gunfights," Helmick said of the Hollister meeting.

But he said a strike force of 60 specially trained CHP officers will be deployed to Hollister as an immediate response team in case of trouble.

He said these riot control specialists will join hundreds of law officers from departments in the region.

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