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L.A. cops beef up patrols at studios in wake of Times Square bomb

May 3, 2010 |  2:10 pm

Los Angeles-area law-enforcement officials said that in the wake of Saturday's attempted bombing in New York, police had stepped up patrols around entertainment studios.

Police across the region say they are prepared to handle an attack, with well-trained police officers and  top-level bomb-disposal units. But they stressed the importance of alert residents: It was a New York street vendor who noticed the SUV emitting smoke and reported it.

Times Square “New York is another wake-up call to us in the United States,” said L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca. “We cannot afford to not be aware of what happened in New York.”

Baca said that although excellent counter-terrorism resources exist, “the reality of the situation in New York was it was a member of the public who prevented a horrific explosion.”

He said he was unaware of any new threats to the L.A. region, but his department already had a heightened alert at Universal Studios and City Walk.

“We have an extensive awareness at Universal Studios. But we rely on the public substantially to spot anything unusual and report it,” he said. “Large gatherings of people are among the most obvious targets.”

Although New York police have yet to identify a suspect in Saturday’s attempted bombing, the proximity to Viacom headquarters there spurred speculation that the company was targeted because of a recent episode of Comedy Central's "South Park" involving the prophet Muhammad.

Viacom owns the Comedy Central cable network. Law-enforcement sources note, however, that New York has many other potential targets.

In Santa Monica, where Viacom’s MTV Networks has offices, police Sgt Jay Trisler says the department is  aware of the reports regarding Viacom.

“We continue to be vigilant when it comes to the MTV location,” he said. “There many locations of significance in Santa Monica in the entertainment business, and there are places of community impact [such as] the pier."

Law-enforcement sources said other locations connected to the "South Park" show in Los Angeles also were the focus of extra vigilance.

LAPD Capt. Horace Frank, head of the bomb squad, said the department’s counter-terrorism operation long ago identified potential targets and maintained special vigilance in regard to those locations daily.

“There are no threats to Los Angeles to our knowledge,” Frank said. “We trained officers to respond to suspicious packages. … We have one of the largest bomb ... detection operations in the country, and we engage the public as our eyes and ears.”

-- Richard Winton

Photo: A police officer stands guard in Times Square on May 3, 2010, in New York City. The area resumed normal operations, with increased police presence, after a car bomb was discovered May 1 before it could be detonated. Credit: Yana Paskova / Getty Images