Chicago-area security stepped up

A security officer and dog patrol the international terminal of O'Hare International Airport today. (Alex Garcia/ Tribune)

Guarding against reprisals in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, Chicago-area security personnel stepped up their vigilance today at high-profile spots: the Daley Center, religious centers and the United Center, among others.

On foot, by camera, by car, the surveillance reflected a renewed norm in the post-bin Laden world: keeping careful watch on possible targets, without knowing whom the attackers might be or even if they will strike.

Although many security measures remained behind the scenes, basketball fans discovered one immediate change: new metal detectors at the United Center for Chicago Bulls playoff games and at all NBA playoff games nationwide.

“We're glad that they did it,” said fan Karen Juneman, of Mount Prospect, after going through arena security. “This is the best thing to make sure that everybody's safe, especially after what's been going on. ... All my girlfriends, we were like, ‘This is good.’”

On the street, Chicago police focused more attention on synagogues, some of which added security cameras and began locking doors after 9/11.

“The reality is that because of Osama bin Laden and other terrorists … we have been instituting additional security for a very long time,” said Rabbi Leonard Matanky of Congregation KINS in West Rogers Park.

“They forced us 10 years ago to … increase security and to do things we never thought we'd need to do,” Matanky said.

Chicago police said they also plan to put more uniformed officers on the street indefinitely starting Tuesday for a more visible presence.

At the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park, where teenagers shattered a mosque window after 9/11, police called to check in, resident scholar Abdool R. Khan said. The foundation put security on alert.

“We don’t expect anything, but you can’t wait for something to happen,” Khan said.

Meanwhile, Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications monitored critical infrastructure citywide. Cook County sheriff's deputies heightened patrols, including with police dogs, around the Daley Center and underground walkways, and contacted major points of interest in the area.

The actions were taken as a precaution although “there is no known terrorist threat in the city of Chicago,” said Jose Santiago, the emergency office’s executive director.

Security at Chicago’s airports and mass transit systems remained at the existing heightened state, officials said. The policy is consistent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's decision in January to make changes only when there is specific or credible information to pass along.

U.S. airports will continue to screen passengers using explosive detection technology, bag checks, random gate searches, canine bomb-sniffing teams and behavior detection officers, said Jim Fotenos, spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration in Chicago.

At O’Hare International Airport, travelers said they were somewhat concerned about the news of bin Laden’s death but that it prompted only minor changes in their plans.

As a frequent business flier to Indonesia, Paul Behrens, of Jacksonville, Fla., said he’ll avoid the hotels and tourist bars there that have been bombed.

“I'm not too worried because it's early (in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death),” Behrens said, “but I guarantee you I'll be watching myself and staying away from the normal target areas.”

The Chicago Transit Authority reminded employees of steps to take if they encounter specific unusual activity, spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said. Officials encouraged riders to report anything suspicious to 911 or CTA personnel.

Police presence and surveillance along Metra’s 11 commuter lines were also bolstered, the agency said.

With the death of bin Laden, one travel agent predicted an uptick in international travel.

“I think people realize (attacks are) so random,” said Marcie Allison, senior travel counselor at Windy City Travel. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, and you can’t live your life in fear.”

Tribune reporters Duaa Eldeib, Richard Wronski, Vaughn McClure, Carlos Sadovi and Robert McCoppin contributed.

jgorner@tribune.com, jhilkevitch@tribune.com and bschlikerman@tribune.com