Feds Join Call For Vigilance During Carnival In New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Mindful of recent attacks in Paris and in San Bernadino, California, the head of the FBI office in New Orleans joined city and state officials Thursday in asking for public vigilance during Carnival season, the pre-Lenten period of parties, parades and street celebrations that build to a raucous, crowd-filled climax on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday.

         Related events bring an estimated 1 million people to the area in the days leading up to Mardi Gras, which falls on Feb. 9 this year. FBI agent Jeff Sallet and Mayor Mitch Landrieu stressed that there is no known threat to this year's festivities.

         But they said residents and visitors should be alert for — and report — anything they deem suspicious, be it an unattended package left in a public place, a stranger taking pictures of bridges or other infrastructure, a glimpse of a concealed weapon or anything else out of the ordinary.

         "This city knows really, really well how to protect itself when there are very large crowds," said Landrieu. "But you can never do enough."

         Authorities are publicizing a toll-free number, 1-800-CALL-FBI, as part of the "If you see something, say something" campaign.

         Sallet said the FBI and other agencies are on heightened alert in light of recent attacks. He mentioned the Paris and San Bernadino attacks as well as the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. "It's not Mardi Gras. It's throughout the year. It's every location and every place," Sallet said.

         Landrieu said leaders at the municipal level are increasingly involved in anti-terrorism efforts.

         "The tip of the spear for all of these things, now, is on the ground and it's typically in some city," Landrieu said. "And because of Paris and because of Boston and because of San Bernadino, it's fair to say that mayors across America and mayors across the world are now in the middle of these decisions."

         In addition to the toll-free FBI number, authorities promoted a mobile app called "See Send." Users can report suspicious activity, using text and photos, to a network of intelligence centers.

         – by AP Reporter Kevin McGill



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