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L.A. police remain concerned about security in sprawling areas

April 16, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein

From Hollywood Boulevard and Staples Center to the Rose Parade and Disneyland, Southern California is full of the kind of cultural and iconic targets that local law enforcement have long feared would make a tempting target for both foreign or domestic terrorists.

While authorities immediately took steps to protect tourist areas and large-scale events in enclosed areas after 9/11, multiple law enforcement officials say they remain concerned about events in sprawling areas with large crowds. 

Brian Jenkins, a terrorism analyst with the Rand Corp., said that Los Angeles may lack the concentration of targets that exist in other big cities like Chicago, New York or Washington.

But, Jenkins said: “Could it happen here? Yes, if we have individuals who are determined to it.... We don’t have a Grand Central Station here but we do have Union Station. We don’t have Central Park but we do have Pershing Square. We have a marathon. We have the Oscars.”

Los Angeles is among the top terrorists targets in the country.

In 2001, Ahmed Ressam was convicted and sentenced to 37 years in federal prison for plotting to bomb Los Angeles International airport. In 2004, law enforcement officials said they believed Al Qaeda operatives had planned to hijack an airliner and crash it into the U.S. Bank tower, then called the Library Tower, in a West Coast follow-up to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Since Sept. 11, considerable progress has been made to secure stationary targets, but also events over distances, like a marathon, said LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow.

In cases of larger events, Chow said anti-terrorism planning is integrated into the event-planning process from the beginning. That includes drawing on available intelligence, using past incidents to inform decision-making and continually informing the public about their role in helping police.

“Planning here in Los Angeles is very sophisticated when you look at police departments across the country,” Jenkins said. “We have become very, very good at coordinating federal, state and local agencies in dealing with an array of crises."

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andrew.blankstein@latimes.com

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