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Holiday Duty for Law Enforcement Includes Protests and Movie Theaters

This holiday season is presenting authorities with a range of security challenges, from the mundane —monitoring rolling protests and drunken driving — to safeguarding movie houses screening "The Interview" and watching for so-called lone wolf terrorism.

All this while making sure everyone gets to Grandma's house.

Law enforcement officials say they know of no imminent threat. As is typical, police are increasing their presence at culturally significant locations as well as transportation hubs, including major airports, ferries, train stations, rail lines and subways.

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On the commuter railroads that take commuters and holiday shoppers into and out of New York, police have stepped up patrols. That includes the Long Island Rail Road, which is the nation’s busiest with 80 million riders a year.

New York state troopers in full uniform are riding the rails and bolstering the already heavy law enforcement presence at Penn Station. The Connecticut State Police have joined in on the rails, patrolling their portion of the Metro-North rail lines.

Los Angeles and San Francisco police say they are also on higher footing where the public gathers and monitoring what's going on — and not just locally.

"We have a very robust counter-terrorism and special operations, and we pay close attention to what ‘s happening in the region, the country and across the globe," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "Things that happen around globe can have impacts here in Los Angeles. And our job is to keep Los Angeles safe."

Throughout the fall, law enforcement was on alert after federal officials warned of ISIS-inspired attacks. A series of joint intelligence bulletins have warned that ISIS-inspired terrorists may be weighing "lone wolf" attacks against "soldiers, patrons and troops … their police, security and intelligence members."

Law enforcement sources say while they are always attuned to broader terrorism threats, they have been long concerned about individual actors motivated by ideology, hatred, revenge or a copy-cat scenario.

The hostage siege of a chocolate shop in Sydney, the killing of a Canadian soldier at the National War Memorial and the ambush slayings of two New York police officers have only added to the concerns.

There are other challenges particular to the season. Police often report a spike in calls for service during the holidays. In 2014, there have been other issues.

Hackers threatened 9/11-like attacks on movie theaters that showed "The Interview," a satire about a plot to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, after a massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures. The studio canceled the Christmas Day release of the movie, then backtracked after criticism.

Police resources are already being stretched by protests across the country against the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the chokehold death of Eric Garner in New York.

Adding to tension was the ambush killings of two New York police officers by a man with a long arrest record who suggested on social media that he planned to kill police to avenge the two deaths.

Law enforcement sources say the NYPD officer killings led Los Angeles police to push back the release Monday of autopsy results in the shooting of Ezell Ford Jr., an African-American man who was fatally shot by police on Aug. 11.

The report will now be made public sometime after this week. Several protests are scheduled in Los Angeles.