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Development & Transportation

City Ups Independence Day Security In Response To Foreign Terrorism

Gene J. Puskar
Fireworks light the skyline of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, July 4, 2007.

Pittsburgh officials said Monday that global terror attacks have prompted new safety precautions for local Fourth of July celebrations.

Public Safety Director Wendell Hissrich promised a noticeably heavier law enforcement presence, including plain clothes police officers and more uniformed patrols near firework viewing areas like Point State Park.

Police are also replacing wooden barricades with sturdier concrete versions and stationing sentries at high vantage points to spot any suspicious activity in crowded areas, Hissrich said.

“With what’s going on both domestically and worldwide, we’re trying to do away with the typical wooden barricades and make them hardened for larger vehicles,” Hissrich said.

Recent terror attacks around the globe have put U.S. cities like El Paso, Texas, Buffalo, N.Y., and Baltimore on edge, especially during holidays that draw dense crowds into tactically vulnerable areas. Two separate terror attacks in London last month involved cars ramming into crowds of innocent bystanders. 

Event-goers should expect baggage checks at Point State Park, up to 12 county and state officers patroling on horseback and five or six mobile lighted towers placed in strategic areas. Hissrich also urged revelers to leave their weapons at home.

Wondering what to take to Point State Park on the Fourth? Check their guide here.

He said the city reserves the right to wand people as they enter the barricades.

Fire Chief Darryl Jones reminded the public not to bring fireworks that do not meet city code -- nothing explosive, that flies or could be mistaken for gunfire.

Jones said the Firework Task Force has confiscated 30 pounds of illegal fireworks since Thursday. He said he heard Monday morning that the new task force had garnered a reputation.

“The kids have given them the new moniker of FWC, which stands for ‘Fire Works Control,’” Jones said. “So the cars come down the road [and] the kids start screaming “Here come Fire Works Control!’”

And Hissrich said first responders won't dampen the fun from fireworks displays or other holiday events around town.

“Let us worry about [safety]," he said. "Take the usual precautions you would take anywhere. If you see something, say something.”