Updated: Increased security at LA-area weekend events expected

The first day of the L.A. Times Festival of Books got underway at USC under sunny skies and an increased police presence

A regular book festival attendee said the increased police presence was noticeable.

Tony Pierce/KPCC

Cyclists take to the streets for CicLAvia, Sunday, April 15, 2012


Southland law enforcement officials are on heightened alert this weekend as thousands of people descend on a series of outdoor events.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach features events through Sunday, including a celebrity race today. An estimated 40,000 people are expected to attend a walk for autism outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena today.

Meanwhile, thousands of bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders and roller skaters are expected to take part in Sunday's CicLAvia, which offers a car-free route along city streets from downtown Los Angeles to Venice.

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes place today and Sunday on the USC campus, and traditionally draws six-figure crowds over the two-day run.

Although some people may be on edge due to the Boston Marathon explosions and subsequent suspect manhunt, which resulted in five deaths and scores of injuries, officials said Southland residents should feel free to take part in the various events.

"We are encouraging everyone to go about their business as usual," Los Angeles police Officer Sally Madera said.

On the first day of the Times book festival, Trish Wilcox of Pasadena, said  “We saw a lot of security, much more than usual.” A poet herself, Wilcox was seated on a shady bench, waiting for the poetry stage to heat up. Wilcox said she was at the festival to get ideas on how to self-publish.

At the “Murder We Wrote” booth, self-publishers abounded. A group of mystery novelists, including Gayle Carline of Orange County, had collectively rented a spot to display their works.

“Most of us have been with publishing houses and we decided to strike out on our own,” Carline said. Part of that has been getting the word out about their works at book festivals like this one.

“This one’s exciting because there are so many people,” Carline said. Event organizers are expecting about 150,000 will pass through over the weekend, and Carline is hoping many will wander over to peruse her line of comical mysteries starring a 50-year-old house-cleaner turned detective.

Jenny Hilborne, the author of thrillers that generally take place in San Francisco or her native United Kingdom, said she was a bit nervous coming to a crowded event so soon after the bombings in Boston.

 “I’m looking in all the trash cans, wondering,” Hilborne said. “But you can’t let it stop you.”

Authorities said they have received no credible information of any threat to local events, however, extra law enforcement personnel — including undercover officers — were being deployed as a precaution in areas where large crowds were expected to gather.

"We will take all appropriate precautions for the safety and security for everyone involved," Long Beach police Chief Jim McDonnell told the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

Long Beach officials said spectators at the Grand Prix can expect to see plenty of uniformed officers, and plenty of non-uniformed officers will be in the crowd.

Similar efforts are expected at the various other events around the area.

With many people likely to rely on public transportation, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department plans to beef up security efforts, particularly on buses and trains, spokesman Steve Whitmore said.

At the Expo Line's Culver City stop, where riders were getting ready to board for the book festival at USC, police even questioned a radio journalist who was recording some train sound.

Law enforcement authorities also encouraged all residents to adhere to the mantra of "If you see something, say something," meaning people should report any type of activity they consider suspicious.

The LAPD urged people to take advantage of the iWatch website, which is designed to gather tips from the public regarding suspicious activities. People going to the site can remain anonymous if they desire.

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