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April 16. 2013 10:11PM

NH, get used to a world of more heightened security


A passenger goes through the new security imaging system at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester on Friday morning. (DAVID LANE / UNION LEADER)

CONCORD - State police have increased their presence in and around the State House and nearby government buildings as a precautionary measure in response to the bombings in Boston and a threatening phone call received over the weekend.

"On Saturday, someone called in a threat to the State House that we received, along with Concord police," said Maj. Russell Conte of the New Hampshire State Police. "So we responded with an increased presence there, but thankfully nothing happened. Right now we are not connecting it with anything that happened in Boston yesterday (Monday)."

After a weekend of heightened security, state police were about to return to standard protocol at the State House on Monday when news of the Boston explosions broke. "After the bombings, we increased our presence again," Conte said.

A state police explosive ordnance unit conducted screenings at the State House and surrounding buildings on Monday, but turned up nothing of concern.

"This morning (Tuesday) we still had a few more people than usual just to make sure business got under way, keeping an eye on the grounds, making sure there was nothing suspicious."

Conte said visitors to the State House and government buildings may notice an increased police presence, but are not likely to be subject to searches of purses or backpacks. "We're not putting any emphasis on checking packages or anything like that right now," he said.

Gov. Maggie Hassan's spokesman, Marc Goldberg, said the governor is urging vigilance among New Hampshire residents. "As a precaution, New Hampshire's State Police have increased their presence at the State House and adjacent buildings, and our public safety officials are in touch with local communities to ensure open communication and to encourage vigilance and awareness," he said. "The governor continues to encourage all Granite Staters to say something if they see something suspicious and let their local law enforcement officials know as soon as possible."

Conte said many of the same rules that people have become accustomed to in airports should now apply on the street. Suspicious packages or abandoned automobiles should be reported immediately, he said.

Airport security

Brian O'Neill, deputy director at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, said he could not discuss any of the details regarding security.

"But I can tell you that the airport remains at the highest level of security, and all employees are ever-vigilant to report anything that looks suspicious."

A suspicious looking package triggered an evacuation at a portion of LaGuardia Airport in New York for less than a half-hour on Tuesday, while at Logan International in Boston, a U.S. Airways flight was remotely parked at the airfield while a bag on board was examined in "an abundance of caution," according to a Massport statement.

Large crowds

Security at events attracting large crowds is likely to be heightened, at least in the near future, according to Conte. "I would think, based on events in Boston, that police are going to be taking a close look at security for any large event in New Hampshire or anywhere in New England. Security is usually very tight at these events to begin with, but there is no doubt that it will be heightened. We'll take each one as it comes, but people can expect we will be very vigilant, looking at the crowds and planning for any situation where there are going to be people in large numbers."

Lt. Maureen Tessier, head of the community policing division in Manchester, also declined to provide specific details on increased security, not wanting to tip off would-be perpetrators.

"Like every other law enforcement agency in the country right now, we are sensitive to what's happened in Boston, and will take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our community," she said. "Lines of communication between local, state and federal law enforcement are open; information is being shared; and we would make appropriate adjustments if information we received dictated that."

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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