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Local News

October 28, 2013

Salem tightens Halloween security

Marathon bombing causes city to take extra precautions

SALEM — Even before the Boston Marathon bombing, Salem Police were ramping up preparations for Halloween.

Earlier this year, Salem and MBTA police scheduled a drill simulating an eerily similar event to what unfolded on Patriots Day in Boston — a backpack filled with fireworks igniting inside a crowded train car in the Salem commuter rail tunnel. The drill was held in June.

“Frankly, every year we move toward a more Homeland Security mind-set,” said Capt. Brian Gilligan, who is overseeing police operations for Halloween.

But this year, following the bombing, Salem Police did take several additional steps to try to ensure public safety on Thursday:

State Police are providing portable surveillance cameras to cover the “dead spots” in the downtown.

A State Police helicopter will hover over the city and feed live video and photographs to Salem Police laptops and iPads.

The Essex Street pedestrian mall will be roped down the middle to allow a flow of foot traffic in two directions.

Some of the changes are a result of greater collaboration between Salem and State Police. That cooperation began, in part, when Salem Chief Paul Tucker and State Police Major Thomas Grenham, the event commander for the state, took part in a counter-terrorism seminar last winter in Israel.

A few weeks ago, Gilligan went into Boston and sat down with Grenham to review Salem’s preparations and find out about security measures used recently at the July 4 fireworks on the Esplanade and the Head of the Charles Regatta.

“We went over everything,” Gilligan said. “It was reassuring to find out we do many similar things.”

Just recently, Grenham came to Salem to walk the downtown with Gilligan and Tucker.

As a result of the meetings with State Police, Salem is setting up a tip line for texters this year. Anyone who sees something of concern can text 67283, then type in a password — Salem1031 — followed by the text message.

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