Metro Detroit vigilant in wake of Paris attacks
Concerns over domestic safety continued to grow in the U.S. Monday, three days after the attacks on civilians in Paris, as the Islamic State declared that Washington and the U.S. are in its sights.
A video released Monday begins with news clips showing the aftermath of the Paris attacks, then an audio statement purported to be from Abou Mohamed Al-Adnani, known as the Islamic State’s spokesman, saying: “We promise that the state of alert will continue: the horror, fear and the lack of security. What’s coming is worse.”
The video was released as French police raided hundreds of locations across the country and coalition forces expanded aerial bombardment of Islamic State targets in Syria as officials warned that terrorists are plotting more attacks in Europe.
In the video, three gun-toting militants warned of more bloodshed. One identified as Al-Karrar Al-Iraqi said just as the group hit in Paris, it will strike the U.S. in Washington.
“I say to European countries, we are coming, we are coming with explosives” and “belts and silencers and you won’t be able to stop us because we’re stronger today,” said another fighter, identified as Al-Ghareeb Al-Jazairi.
Security was heightened over the weekend in U.S. cities including New York, St. Louis and Boston for sporting events and where large numbers of people gathered. Officials said it was precautionary and not related to a specific threat.
The Capitol Police Monday issued an email to congressional offices, saying that “out of an abundance of caution” people should use tunnels connecting the Capitol with adjacent House and Senate office buildings, a short walk people often make outdoors. It urged those who work for Congress to make sure their offices know where they are.
The email says the Capitol Police have an “increased presence and visibility” on the Capitol complex in the wake of the Friday attacks in France. It also calls on people working on Capitol Hill to report anything suspicious.
“While there currently is no specific threat to the Capitol Complex it will always be an appealing target,” the memo says. It says the Capitol Police “continues to be on the highest alert.”
Jeh C. Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, issued a statement Monday saying DHS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are closely monitoring events in Paris and are in contact with local law enforcement.
“We are in contact with our counterparts in the region. At this time, we know of no specific or credible threats of an attack on the U.S. homeland of the type that occurred in Paris,” Johnson said.
“As we do regularly, and out of an abundance of caution, DHS and the FBI are consulting with state and local law enforcement. We are also in communication with relevant private sector organizations to advise them of what we know, and to hear from them about security precautions they may take.”
In Michigan, the pre-holiday entertainment season is building momentum with events that will be attended by thousands, at public venues: Stevie Wonder’s anticipated “Songs in the Key of Life” concert Saturday at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit; the Detroit Lions-Oakland Raiders game at Ford Field Sunday; next week’s Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade; and Black Friday’s annual shopping mania.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Monday his department has been and continues to be prepared. On Saturday, Craig said the department is on “heightened alert” and has shifted personnel “to soft and hard targets.”
He wouldn’t discuss what he meant by those targets, but Detroit has three casinos, three professional sports arenas or stadiums and an entertainment district.
“Certainly, we are prepared. We have been prepared. We don’t just wait for an incident to happen,” Craig said Monday. “We have great relationships with other agencies. There have been no specific threats to Detroit or anywhere in Michigan, but we don’t take these matters lightly. So we’re asking our police officers to remain vigilant.”
In a statement, Olympia Entertainment confirmed that it will step up security for Wonder’s concert, without giving exact details of what it will do.
“The safety and security of our fans and venues continues to be our highest priority,” the statement said. “Due to the recent events in Paris, Joe Louis Arena security has coordinated with law enforcement officials to provide enhanced security measures at Joe Louis Arena for Saturday’s concert. These measures are being taken out of an abundance of caution and will be kept in place until more information is available. Similar enhanced security measures are in place at the Fox Theatre and Hockeytown Café.”
The NFL said in a statement Monday that “there will be an increased security and law enforcement presence both inside and outside stadiums in the parking lots of our stadiums this weekend.”
“All NFL clubs use mandatory metal detector screening and multiple layers of perimeter security external to the stadium to safeguard fans and the stadium from explosive threats,” the statement said. “Following the events in Paris on Friday, we are closely monitoring events and have been in communication with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which have informed us that there are no known threats against NFL stadiums.”
At Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, “... all security protocols mandated by the NFL which have been certified and designated by the Department of Homeland Security since 2008” will be in place, said spokesman Ben Manges. .
“In addition ... we have sought and received additional support from local law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Tony Michaels, president and CEO of the Parade Company, said for years he has worked hand-in-hand with Detroit police and Homeland Security to prepare for the annual Thanksgiving Day parade along Woodward.
“We’re understanding of the current situation, and we realize that our job is to put on these major events, and they’re the safety experts, so we’re completely at their disposal. That’s been our relationship,” Michaels said.
“(Monday and Tuesday), we’ll have our volunteer orientation, and Homeland Security will come to meet with the volunteers, as they’ve done for years, to keep everyone calm. We don’t want to create something that doesn’t exist,” he said. “Everybody is in a position of being aware of their surroundings, and being diligent.”
Officials with the FBI in Detroit referred questions to Federal Protective Service agency. A message was left for an FPS representative there.
Staff Writers Melody Baetens and Susan Whitall contributed.