Expect to see more police at LAX, Union Station after terrorist attacks in Brussels

After terrorist attacks killed dozens in Brussels and injured scores more, extra law enforcement officers were out at some of Los Angeles’ transportation hubs and high-profile sites Tuesday in a show of force to reassure the public.

Taking no chances, sheriff’s deputies swept Union Station and had extra personnel posted at a metro station downtown and in Willowbrook, while police at Los Angeles International Airport made themselves more visible, officials said.

"Today we have no credible or specific threats about Los Angeles, but whenever there are these incidents we of course make sure we have a show of force," Mayor Eric Garcetti said at an afternoon news conference Tuesday.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who was also at the event, said police have increased patrols at the city’s “critical infrastructure” sites in response to the horrific attacks in Brussels.

"Public safety is my responsibility in Los Angeles, but it is everybody's business,” he said. "The eyes and ears of the public are absolutely paramount.”

Beck said that terrorism has become more spontaneous and harder to detect, but that partnerships within the community are key.

"A sense of inclusion keeps people from being radicalized. It is what keeps people from going to the darkside. This is very much a battle between good and evil,” he said.

According to experts, an attack similar to the one launched in Brussels would be more difficult to execute in Los Angeles and the United States.

David Bowdich, assistant director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said the bureau's priority was "to ensure we don't have a U.S.-based connection to this act. If we do we will be relentless in the pursuit of those individuals.”

There may be individual terrorists in California, experts said, but they don’t have the support network of bomb makers, safe houses and weaponry that makes killing a huge number of people as likely as in a country like Belgium.

“The big difference between here and Europe and what has made Europe so dangerous is they have a far larger number of returning foreign fighters from Syria, and more importantly, they have a logistical support network in place,” said Brian Jenkins, a counter-terrorism expert for the Rand Corp. “These fighters come back home determined to carry out an attack. But they need a place to hide, someone to build bombs, someone to supply weapons. They need a network.”

In the U.S., Jenkins said, “we are seeing a single individual or autonomous action. They don’t have a terrorist underground here to turn to logistically.”

He said that was evident in the case of the December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, where Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people and wounded 22.

Brian Levin, a Cal State San Bernardino terrorism expert, said an attack on American soil by Islamic State could not be ruled out, but he agreed that the risk of a massive attack was higher for European nations. 

Still, “we remain one of their top targets,” Levin said, even if the attackers are more likely to be "lone wolves,” or small terror cells that lack the logistical support of groups in Europe, Levin said.

Meanwhile, authorities have urged the public to adopt the credo: “If you see something, say something” as a way to maintain vigilance.

After the attacks in Paris last year, law enforcement increased security around softer targets spread across the city, including high-profile concert venues and popular shopping areas during the holiday season.

Los Angeles — with its urban sprawl and pockets of neighborhoods, each with favored public locales — offers numerous targets for terrorists looking for venues where many people gather, security experts said.

Times staff writer Joseph Serna contributed to this report.

For breaking California news, follow @lacrimes @katemather.

MORE ON THE ATTACKS:

Before Brussels, LAX was repeatedly a target of terrorism

Video: Inside Belgium's airport after the attack

U.S. Embassy is trying to track down American citizens

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

3:09 p.m.: This article has been updated with additional comments from terrorism experts and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

11:56 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional comments from terrorism experts and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti.

7:38 a.m.: This article has been updated with additional information about security measures at Union Station and elsewhere.

This article was originally published at 6:06 a.m.

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