Comedian Carol Burnett and author Joyce Carol Oates will be among the dozens of participants in the 18th annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books to be held this weekend on the USC campus.
The popular two-day event gets underway at 10 a.m. Saturday and will include interviews with a number of authors as well as roundtable discussions with Times reporters on everything from the mayor’s race to L.A. Noir. There will also be food, music and spoken word performances. Check out the full program schedule.
The festival of books is only one of three major sporting and cultural events this weekend, making it a hectic one for police in Los Angeles and Long Beach. In the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon this week, officials have increased the number of police officers stationed at the events that also include the CicLAvia bike ride along Venice Boulevard on Sunday and the Long Beach Grand Prix, which stretches over both days.
“On Monday, everything changed,” said Eric Matusak, a Long Beach police officer assigned to the department’s special events team. “We felt we had a good security plan in place .... Within 24 hours, we were doing this to a whole new level.”
Officials emphasized that there is no indication the events are under any increased threat since the Boston bombings. Nonetheless, they said they recognized the need to increase police presence out of an abundance of caution and, more important, to give attendees a sense of safety.
“We will definitely have a heightened, very visible presence. We want people to see us and know we are watching,” said John Thomas, chief of USC police. “With something as fresh as Boston in people’s minds, they are more attuned to the need for it .... The perception of safety is as important as safety itself.”
About 150,000 people are expected to attend the annual book festival, which features panel discussions with authors in lecture halls and stages across the campus south of downtown. It is the type of event that, like marathons, poses a particular headache for those trying to guard against an attack such as the one in Boston.
With huge numbers of people coming and going from various access points and no viable opportunity to funnel people through checkpoints, officers are somewhat hamstrung.
The CicLAvia bike ride will present a similar challenge to the LAPD on Sunday, when a 15-mile stretch of Venice Boulevard, from the ocean to downtown, is closed to automobiles and opened to about 100,000 cyclists, joggers and skaters.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith said that along with boosting the overall number of officers who will be patrolling the course, the Boston bombing led LAPD officials to decide to deploy undercover officers who will mingle among the crowds as well -- a tactic not used at previous CicLAvia events.
“I’m not in the ‘hope for the best’ business,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said earlier in the week. “I’m in the business of planning for the worst.”