New York, Los Angeles Step Up Security

Ina Jaffe in Los Angeles and Mike Pesca in New York describe how authorities in those cities are increasing their vigilance against possible terrorist strikes in the wake of Thursday's attacks in London.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

As we've been reporting, in the wake of today's bombings in London, US officials have raised the terror alert level for mass transit systems. That alert level is now at orange; that's high. There's no increased alert level for airports, and the general alert level remains at yellow. Earlier, US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outlined some steps that are being taken by mass transit officials in this country.

Secretary MICHAEL CHERTOFF (Department of Homeland Security): We have asked state and local leaders and transportation officials to increase their protective measures including additional law enforcement, police, bomb-detecting canine teams, increased video surveillance and increased numbers of inspection of trash receptacles and other storage areas.

CHADWICK: Cities across the nation are already putting the added security measures into place. We have two reports on America's response to the London bombings. We'll begin with NPR's Ina Jaffe in Los Angeles.

INA JAFFE reporting:

Newly elected Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and top law enforcement officials had two messages for LA residents at a morning briefing today: There is no credible threat against Los Angeles right now, and they've been preparing for this for a long time. They said an orange alert was in effect for trains, buses and the airports. There will be two sheriffs deputies on every single train, both subways and light rail, and additional police presence at train stations and on buses. Villaraigosa said he wanted to show Angelenos that the transit system was as safe as possible.

Mayor ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (Los Angeles): I will be on that subway and that light rail line today to encourage people to remain calm and to demonstrate my confidence that this system is safe and that we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of our passengers.

JAFFE: Law enforcement's doing all it can, said LAPD Chief William Bratton, but there's really only so much they can do.

Chief WILLIAM BRATTON (Los Angeles Police Department): Being quite frank with you, it's not a matter of if; it's just a matter of when in terms of terrorism attacks. That's the reality of the world that we live in. London, like New York, like Chicago, like Los Angeles are prime targets.

JAFFE: Bratton said that he's been in touch with police chiefs in other American cities, and he says he hopes to send some of his people to London soon to learn whatever they can from today's attacks. Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Los Angeles.

MIKE PESCA reporting:

I'm Mike Pesca in New York, where heightened security is visible at the transportation hubs. Bomb-sniffing dogs could be seen today in Penn Station and Grand Central Station. There are more police everywhere. One of the things the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut did was to put state troopers on trains in the suburban states, and as those trains cross state lines into New York, the troopers retain their police authority.

Commuters in New York reacted this morning in the same way as the morning of the 2004 Madrid train bombings. Lynn, who I spoke with as she waited for a subway at Grand Central Terminal, was typical of the wary but resigned attitude.

LYNN: I was kind of skeptical taking the train in this morning. I mean, normally, you know, I would watch to see if there's anything, but this morning, I was extra cautious. I was looking under the benches, seeing if there was anything unusual, and I was happy when I got to work safe.

PESCA: Commuter Marcel Fererra(ph) decided to take the train and not drive after waiting to see that there were no follow-up attacks. He said that he thought the US was safer than Europe.

Mr. MARCEL FERERRA: We're farther away from--see, in Europe, there's all the countries all together. We're much farther away from a lot of international flights like that. I think it's a lot easier in Europe for someone to get, you know, something through like that than here.

PESCA: Why this is interesting is that it puts stock in the idea that the ocean of separation between the US and Europe and the Mideast provides a measure of security. Of course, 9/11 shook this common belief. And we have so many signs of the intertwined world--the pictures being transmitted from Europe before the bombing or the leaders of the great industrial nations standing shoulder to shoulder. And just yesterday, the biggest cities of four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council were in competition to host the Summer Olympics. Twenty-four hours ago, New York was offering London congratulations; today, its condolences as this city goes about its business with caution. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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