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Some trains, buses heighten security

(The following article by Virginia Groark and David Heinzmann was posted on the Chicago Tribune on August 10.)

CHICAGO -- Chicago area bus and train riders were reminded Thursday to report unusual activity, even though city and state officials said the international terror plot posed no immediate threat to the city.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security notified city officials around midnight Wednesday about the heightened aviation security alert, but there is "no information whatsoever" about any Chicago connection to the plot, Mayor Richard Daley said. Daley and police Supt. Philip Cline said the threats were for flights headed to New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

Still, airports in Chicago, and across the country, were on heightened alert and adjusting to added security measures. But for the most part, the Chicago area maintained normal levels of vigilance.

In the Loop, where security has been heightened for several years because of the possibility that landmarks such as the Sears Tower could be targeted, police said there was no reason to add resources.

"You have to go on with your lives. If they change our lives, they basically win, and we can't do that," Daley said. "This was an international plot. It wasn't a plot here."

Though there was no immediate threat to mass transit, the Chicago Transit Authority reminded employees to look for unusual activity and made similar announcements to riders. Information about the new aviation-security measures was broadcast to passengers on airport-bound Orange and Blue Line trains.

Metra continued its policy of broadcasting security announcements to passengers, but otherwise it was business as usual, spokeswoman Judy Pardonnet said.

"We are doing the same things we always do," she said.

Pace suburban bus officials elevated their internal security level to orange, which triggered procedures that agency spokeswoman Judi Kulm would not detail. In addition, bus drivers warned passengers to be on alert and report anything unusual.

At Chicago Union Station, Amtrak increased security patrols, as it did at major facilities across the nation. Dogs were used to conduct random sweeps of luggage, and police shifts were extended to 12 hours from eight.

Amtrak also ramped up its random ticket-verification program, increasing the number of passengers it asks for valid identification on trains to 50 percent from the normal level of 10 percent.

Friday, August 11, 2006

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