Security precautions in place for July 4th festivities here

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 2, 2002

President Bush said Tuesday that Americans should &uot;celebrate heartily&uot; on Independence Day despite concerns about possible terrorist attacks.

Like hundreds of communities nationwide, Suffolk is taking extra security precautions to keep its Fourth of July festivities safe.

On Thursday, extra city police officers will be on the streets and posted at local events being held in Crittenden and Sleepy Hole Park, said Officer Michael E. Simpkins, spokesman for the Suffolk Police Department.

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Local authorities are under a heightened state of awareness to potential terrorism risks, Simpkins said.

That means as officers do their routine patrols, they are more likely to question suspicious behavior, he said.

&uot;And they will keep their eyes open for people who in some way don’t blend in with the crowd,&uot; Simpkins said.

&uot;Terrorism is at the back of everybody’s minds today,&uot; he said. &uot;It can’t not be after Sept. 11.

People attending the Stars and Stripes Spectacular, the city-sponsored event being held at Sleepy Hole, will not be allowed to carry coolers, backpacks or any other sort of large bag into the park, said Lakita Frazier, recreation superintendent of the Suffolk Department of Parks and Recreation, organizers of the event.

Strong security measures are also in place in Washington D.C., where Bush plans to watch the traditional fireworks display from the Truman Balcony of the White House.

More than 500,000 people are expected to flood downtown Washington on Thursday for events on the National Mall.

The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department has rescheduled days off to put all of its 3,600 officers on the street for the holiday, and the U.S. Capitol Police Department will deploy 500 officers for the &uot;Capitol Fourth&uot; concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

The government plans to keep the nation on &uot;yellow&uot; alert status, the middle of five levels, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. &uot;There is no change in the security situation,&uot; he said. &uot;It remains a time of celebration and vigilance.&uot;

For the first time, a double line of snow fencing has been installed around the perimeter of the 146 acres of Washington’s famed monument corridor. Officers with hand-held metal detectors will be stationed at 24 security checkpoints to search coolers, backpacks, and purses.

People &uot;ought to be joyous in their celebration and celebrate the fact that we’re fortunate enough to be Americans,&uot; Bush said during a visit to Milwaukee.

&uot;They should also know our government is doing everything they can to make the homeland secure,&uot; he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.