Major cities respond to terror alert
In smaller cities, officials also have heightened security and surveillance.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Revelers can expect hovering helicopters and bomb-sniffing dogs with their champagne and confetti as cities hunker down for their most heavily guarded New Year's Eve in memory.
From Times Square to the Las Vegas Strip and California's Rose Parade, police have been rolling out unprecedented security measures triggered by an increase in the national terrorism alert to orange, its second-highest level.
In New York, workers sealed manhole covers and removed mailboxes to guard against any potential bomb attack in Times Square. More than 750,000 revelers are expected to gather under the guard of counter-sniper teams and seven police helicopters.
Armed helicopters will also prowl the Las Vegas Strip, where 300,000 people are anticipated.
"I think the level of security this time around within the United States is absolutely unprecedented," Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said on "The Early Show."
New York police are focusing more heavily than last year on hotels, landmarks and ferry terminals as a result of their analysis of anti-American "chatter" culled from the Internet and other sources, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.
"We think it's prudent for us to do that," he said.
Partygoers headed to New York were warned to expect long delays at bridges and tunnels. Every vehicle on affected routes is subject to a random stop and search, New Jersey officials said. State troopers will be riding the rails to assist transit police on trains going in and out of New York.
Officials nationwide said there were no specific threats to traditional gatherings and urged people to go forward with celebrations.
Still, FBI and other federal agents have been sweeping the Las Vegas area for weapons or threats, said Ellen Knowlton, FBI special agent in charge in Las Vegas.
The Strip has 74,344 hotel rooms and 18 of the nation's 20 largest hotels.
Nearly the entire Las Vegas police force of about 2,000 officers will be on duty, plus about 600 jail officers. Authorities also are relying on help from about 4,000 hotel security guards.
On Monday, the Department of Homeland Security said airspace over the Strip will be restricted.
Thousands of local officers and federal agents will fan out through Pasadena, Calif., where revelers gather along the 51/2-mile Rose Parade route and attend the Rose Bowl football game. Video surveillance cameras will capture images of spectators lining the streets.
Flights over the Rose Bowl will be limited to police and military aircraft; everyone working in the stadium, from hot dog vendors to television camera crews, will be required to wear photo ID.
Still, terrorism concerns did not dim the enjoyment of visitors Tuesday.
"We decided not to live our lives in fear and do what we want to do," said Janet Powles, 60, of Rapid City, S.D., as she watched volunteers apply flower petals to floats in the Rose Palace.
The increase in the alert level to orange and reports of threats to Las Vegas appeared to affect business there. Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said New Year's Eve cancellations jumped in the last week. His survey of Las Vegas hotels found twice as many cancellations this year as in 2002.
Boston is expecting more than a million visitors for its First Night arts festival, the nation's oldest such celebration. Security there will remain consistent with the past two years' events.
In smaller cities and rural areas, officials described increased security at public places, such as malls, and heightened surveillance at vital infrastructure, such as bridges, power plants, water systems, airports and ports.