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United States Safety

October 8, 2001 at 12:00 AM EDT


RAY SUAREZ: Now, more on the increased security from three mayors. Tom Menino of Boston, Ronald Kirk of Dallas, and Beverly O’Neill of Long Beach, California. Tom Menino, the Columbus Day weekend is a time when a lot of tourists are in New England.

If I was on the streets around Faneuil Hall would I notice anything different?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: No you wouldn’t notice anything different. We had large crowds this weekend. We did have more police presence around the city of Boston but there was a lot of tourists in our city. We had a great festival on city hall plaza today. We had the Columbus Day parade yesterday. So the city has been pretty active this weekend.

RAY SUAREZ: When you put in new security procedures after September 11, did those have to be raised even further once the active hostilities began over the weekend?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: We’ve been at heightened alert since the — September 11 and, let me just say that with this week, just today we added additional police officers to the streets of our city but nothing that is extraordinary. Just put some additional… Give the people in the city who came to our city a sense of security today.

RAY SUAREZ: And Beverly O’Neill, Long Beach is America’s greatest seaport. Does that present any special security challenges to you?

MAYOR BEVERLY O’NEILL: Well, it’s a beautiful city, and it’s 11 miles of waterfront, but about half of it is the seaport. And we have been on tactical alert with the seaport since the September incidents. We’re working together with federal agencies, with the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard right now boards all of the ships before they allow them into the port. They work with the manifest and with the orders bringing them in before they even show up. So it has slowed down traffic a little bit, but it certainly is worth it.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, you can’t look at every single container that comes into a port like Long Beach. Do they… The way they do when we look at trucks coming into… on a highway, do they choose a certain number and give them a closer going over?

MAYOR BEVERLY O’NEILL: Yes, they do study it before they get here to know what the cargo actually is. You’re right, in a port such as ours that had about 4.5 million TEU’s last year, you cannot look into every container. So the Coast Guard knows what they’re looking for. INS is involved. The Customs are involved also as well as our own port security. So there is a heightened sense of awareness and also a great scrutiny as to what the cargo really is and where the ship is from, where it has been, and we’re just pleased with that. We have a breakwater in our city and all the ships are out behind the breakwater, it looks like a parking lot of ships before they are allowed into the port. They’re escorted in and they’re escorted out.

RAY SUAREZ: Ronald Kirk, how would the observer notice that things have changed in Dallas over the past month?

MAYOR RONALD KIRK: Well, Ray, things have been reasonably back to normal here in the last several of weeks. As you know, we’re a major transportation hub because of DFW Airport and Love Field, and we’ve followed the FAA and national guidelines on that and actually used this as an opportunity to heighten security. But I don’t know that anyone thinks of it as oppressive. And what we’ve found is that most of the traveling public is welcoming the increased security at the airport. The biggest event we’ve had of a public nature is our state fair in Texas kicked off last week. It’s a largest, longest, continually run state fair in the nation. We get almost 3.5 million visitors a year in that. And I’m pleased to tell you that first day I think we the largest opening day crowd we ever had before.

RAY SUAREZ: But would visitors have to present their bags? Did people have to go through metal detectors, that sort of thing?

MAYOR RONALD KIRK: We have a little more increased security. We always have a fairly strong police presence at the fair but mostly we have done as Mayor Giuliani and Menino and others have asked the public just to exercise common sense particularly when they’re going to large-scale public events, carry as little with you as possible. If you don’t have to take coolers or big bags, don’t do so. At least at this point, Ray, most of the public has been very accepting and welcoming of the increased security. But it’s not so oppressive that it’s impeded their ability to come out and have a good time.

RAY SUAREZ: You’ve mentioned your well-known airports. Dallas is also ringed by major highways that crisscross it and Texas. Does that give you special challenges?

MAYOR RONALD KIRK: Well, it does. You know, we are a major, major transportation hub as well. We’re one of the larger border cities. But as you know, the National Guard has stepped up their involvement with our State Department of Public Safety and others. And there is a little more increased security on that. But again we’re trying to take necessary measures that the public would welcome. But not make things so oppressive as to frighten people. What we want more than anything is for the public to be accepting of the fact that our nation is at war but to the degree that we can we need to go on about our daily lives as close to normal as possible.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Mayor Menino, in the last few minutes, we heard the Attorney General talk about a heightened state of awareness and the mayor of New York telling people to calm down and relax and be brave. What do you tell your people about what they can expect in the coming months? Are these new security measures going to be in place for a long time?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: Our life has changed as we know it forever in America. So we have to get… be aware of the new security we have in America today. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve brought all the property owners with the large properties in our city to work with our Boston police. Also we brought the colleges security forces in to work with our police and also to the ethnic groups of our city, working with them all. It’s a community effort to make this as safe as we can, but our lives have changed. Security will be number one from now on as we go into buildings in our city, to the airport, whatever transportation we take. We have more security than ever before.

RAY SUAREZ: And what kind of contacts have you had with other levels of government? Are you working closely to put these things in place with your state, with federal agencies of various kinds?

MAYOR THOMAS MENINO: We have worked with the — Governor Swift over the last several weeks, very close contact with her. Our police department is working very close with the FBI, so we have the regular intelligence going back and forth, the state, federal and city governments. So we’re working very closely with them. We can’t do it alone. We need the federal government to work with us on these issues.

RAY SUAREZ: Mayor O’Neill if I understand the story correctly, you had already put in some drills and some closer inspection in Long Beach, even before September 11, specifically toward anti-terrorism measures.

MAYOR BEVERLY O’NEILL: We’ve been very fortunate. In 1998 we did get from the Department of Defense the act for — Terrorist Protection Act, so we have had training in that arena, also the Department of Health and Human Services we have a grant from them or we did have a grant from them to understand the events with chemical and biological warfare, and then also the Department of Justice has provided us with equipment for training for terrorists. So we have had some background training in this. It’s not something that we have used with our public at all, and there hasn’t been a need for it in the city but we’re prepared. And I would agree with Mayor Menino that the citizens have to feel that they are safe.

They have to feel that they can come out of their homes. We’re having several things in the community because we find that people want to show their devotion for their country, and so we have had patriotic events. We are planning the month of October to have people realize that we love America and we want to be part of showing that life can go on. But there has to be a feeling of safety first. And that’s what our utmost direction is at this time.

RAY SUAREZ: Well, Mayor Kirk, how do you strike that balance to close our conversation between having a cop every 20 or 30 yards all through the city or having a very light touch when it comes to visible security?

MAYOR RONALD KIRK: Well, there’s no… I don’t know that there’s any specific protocol for that. It’s just I think given the reality of the events of September 11 the public is much more accepting of an increased security awareness in our public buildings and public places than they ever have been before. But like Boston and San Diego and other cities, Dallas has had a protocol in place because of events in Oklahoma City and others that fortunately we’ve got a very good strike force team, with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies that have been in place. But we’re going to have to work our way through this. Tom Menino is right. This is a new day for Americans.

I think most of us are willing to accept more security measures but at the same time we have to be mindful of what President Bush and others have urged us, that we cannot succumb to that fear and we can’t just stay at home in cocoons. We have got to go about our normal daily lives to try to help first of all prop up our economy but also to show the terrorists they’re not going to impede our freedoms. We’re going to find our way through it and try to make sure that we get the right balance.

RAY SUAREZ: Mayors Kirk, Menino, and O’Neill, thank you all.