Video: Convention security

By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News
updated 7/15/2004 9:21:47 AM ET 2004-07-15T13:21:47

Democrats converge in Boston in 12 days for their national convention, but signs of heightened security are already apparent.  For this first major political gathering event since 9/11, the precautions will be extraordinary, with special measures stretching far beyond the convention hall.

They call it the “hard zone,” the immediate area around the Boston convention site.  All incoming trucks and cargo shipments are now being X-rayed to detect contraband, even people hiding inside.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge toured the federal security command post Wednesday and said it will be the most heavily guarded public event in United State history.  "Every asset, be it technology or be it human, that we have available to us is deployed in a way that maximizes the safety and security of the community and the people who are living in it," says Ridge.

Officers on patrol will carry hand-held computers, allowing them to punch up dozens of surveillance cameras.  There's even a mobile command center that can take over from the permanent command center in an emergency.

While the inside of the Fleet Center is getting its party makeover, delegates are receiving a list of what's banned inside — from umbrellas and flashlights to unopened envelopes or packages.  Some precautions will be major disruptions.  Interstate 93, carrying nearly 250,000 drivers a day, passes so close to the convention hall that it will be shut down every afternoon.  So will nearby bridges and tunnels — nearly 40 miles of roads in all.

Under the Fleet Center, the city's busy North Station will be closed entirely, affecting 24,000 train and subway commuters.  And no small planes can land at Boston's Logan airport.  "We have to plan for a low probability, extremely high hazard event, against a backdrop of other events driven by protesters and various other demonstrations," says Edward Flynn from the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety.

On the Charles River, a section will be off limits to boats, and the Coast Guard will patrol Boston Harbor with the equivalent of a small navy.

And there will be so many bomb-sniffing dogs, that they're coming from almost as far away as the delegates.  Nearly 4,500 security personnel will be in Boston, roughly one for every eight convention visitors, with security so tight that police will even guard the air ventilators at convention hotels.

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