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Agencies respond to increased threat

Monday, December 22, 2003

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Indiana security officials said the raising of the national terror alert to a higher level was not cause for people to be fearful or to change their holiday plans.

More people, however, need to pay better attention to their surroundings, those officials said after the federal government on Sunday raised national threat level to orange, the second-highest level.

Peter Beering, terrorism preparedness coordinator for the city of Indianapolis, said he has been troubled by what he saw as "a general decline in people's attention" to terrorism threats.

"It is important for people to pay more attention to things going on around them than they normally do," he said.

Clifford Ong, the state's homeland security director, also said people needed to be alert despite the distractions of holiday activities.

Several extra security steps were being taken across the state, but Ong said he did not expect the activation of any Indiana National Guard units to assist with security.

Some of those added security steps include increased security at airports, government buildings and major public events and increased communications between public safety agencies and other key service providers, such as hospitals and utility companies, Beering said.

"What people can expect to see over the next week to 10 days is more law enforcement at various events -- from major holiday services to sporting events and concerts," Beering said. "People need to know we have an array of different resources paying attention to a lot of different things."

Airline travelers will see more police and possibly longer security screening lines, said Chris Rhadigan, a spokeswoman for the federal Transportation Security Administration.

Even before the alert, Rhadigan said, security officials at Indianapolis International Airport had planned to have a full complement of security screeners on hand for the holiday rush.

"People shouldn't be afraid to enjoy the holidays -- and that includes traveling to see family and friends," she said.

Indianapolis airport spokesman Dennis Rosebrough said some random vehicle searches were planned as airport police work extended shifts.

Curbside check-in and loading will continue, but Rosebrough said security personnel would strictly enforce the no-stopping rule for vehicles where people were not actively loading or unloading.

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