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Security At State Capitols Stepped Up Amid New Safety Concerns

State capitols across the region are beefing up security amid heightened safety concerns following last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol.

Concrete barriers block access to Albany’s Capitol Hill via State Street. New York State Troopers have increased their overall presence and are keeping a watchful eye after the FBI issued a bulletin warning that gatherings related to the transition of power from President Donald Trump to President-elect Joe Biden could lead to violence at all 50 state capitals and in Washington ahead of Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed the matter Tuesday.

The New York State Capitol
Credit Jackie Orchard / WAMC
Barriers around the New York State Capitol.

"On the increased security, yes we got the FBI alert. State Police are working on it and we'll have increased security during that period of time."

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says he respects First Amendment rights but thinks it would be best if people stayed away from any planned demonstrations. He and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan issued a joint statement encouraging all residents and businesses to sign up for department alerts and follow the Albany Police Department on social media to stay informed.

"And we've been working on this for a little bit over a week, with information working with our intelligence sources at all levels. And just to see where we are. And so the mayor and I thought it was important to put something out, this information is now all public to the members of the community that lets them know that we're aware of the information that's out there and we're working with all of our partners to figure out exactly what the threat level is." In Vermont, Montpelier Police say they are partnering with federal agencies, the Capitol Police, the state attorney general, state police and local departments. They’re also asking the public to report any unusual activity. Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete says while there are no particular threats, there will be an enhanced police presence.

Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete
Credit City of Montpelier
Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete

"We would not be responsible if we didn't have our diligence in planning for it in seeing what the national trends are, and seeing what we just saw at the U.S. Capitol. So we're gonna make sure that our response is gonna be measured and our response is gonna be appropriate as to any potential threat or any specific threat that we may learn about between now and not only just January 17th through the 20th, but going forward."

Asked about the FBI warning, Governor Charlie Baker Tuesday said there is no specific threat anywhere in Massachusetts.

"There are currently no known threats with respect to the statehouse or any other public building at this time in Massachusetts. And we will continue to monitor and track the information that's out there, and we will be appropriately prepared for anything that might happen."

According to the AP, Connecticut officials are "staying at a heightened awareness at all times," having conducted security assessments of various state buildings, including the state Capitol complex, given the FBI’s warnings.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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