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Vigilance continues on public transit as bomb threat probed
By Marni Pyke | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 9/23/2009 12:01 AM

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Local transit agencies and event organizers say security precautions are ongoing in the wake of a thwarted plot to bomb New York City trains, although no specific threats to Chicago have emerged at this point in the investigation.

U.S. counterterrorism officials have issued several alerts advising vigilance on mass transit systems and at stadiums, hotels and entertainment complexes.

The FBI is questioning Najibullah Zazi, a Denver airport van driver, in connection with an alleged scheme involving bombs in backpacks. He has denied any wrongdoing.

So far, "there has been no information about any threat to Illinois," Illinois Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Patti Thompson said Tuesday. Metra spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said the agency was coordinating with federal and local authorities.

"We've always been at a heightened state of security since 9/11," she said. "When something like this happens, we monitor the situation and are prepared to take additional steps if we have to."

Metra announced this summer that air marshals with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration would be conducting random patrols of trains.

Likewise, CTA officials said that TSA officers have made multiple appearances on the system this year. The agency is also installing digital security cameras at all 144 stations, a project that will be done by 2011.

CTA spokeswoman Wanda Taylor reminded the public to report any suspicious activity.

At the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, it's business as usual as organizers prepare for a crowd of up to 14,000 attending the Pink concert Saturday.

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, the arena reviewed and upgraded its security procedures, Executive Director Harry Pappas said. Bomb-sniffing dogs are used, knapsacks are prohibited and purses are checked before entry, he explained.

The federal bulletins serve a purpose because "they want to be sure we haven't fallen into any lapses or fallen into complacency," Pappas said.

The White Sox host the Minnesota Twins today. Sox spokesman Scott Reifert said officials are in constant contact with Chicago, state and U.S. Department of Homeland Security authorities on safety issues but would not go into details.