Counter-terrorism effort underway in Chicago

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A café and a small concert venue are being referred to as ‘soft targets’ since the Paris attacks. And now, Metra and the CTA in Chicago have stepped up their security.

'Soft targets' are called that for the very reason that they present many ways for terrorists to attack, and that makes it very difficult to protect them.

On a beautiful November night, people were taking advantage of the weather to dine outside on Rush Street with the thoughts of terrorism far from their minds at the moment.

“I didn't until you brought it up. Never even thought about it, and we're traveling from California and we're in Chicago, we don't think about being unsafe here,” said Paul Tucci.

But keeping Chicago and other cities safe is always on the mind of police and the FBI, and others involved in counter-terrorism efforts.

But just how much can they do to prevent an attack on theaters and other places where large crowds of people are often gathered at one time? If intelligence is good, they can and do thwart attacks. In 2006, the FBI arrested a lone wolf terrorist who had planned to explode a bomb at the Cherry Valley Mall outside Rockford.

But what happened in Paris is a reminder that so many places are very vulnerable to attacks, and experts say it is virtually impossible to prevent attacks on many public places.

But where security can be stepped up, either privately or through police agencies, it is happening in many places whether you see it or not.

“It's now looking at any gathering as a threat, it just changes the way you have to handle it from inner perimeters to outer perimeters and magnetometers and check points,” said Britt Johnson of the FBI.

As law enforcement agencies from around the country gathered in Chicago Tuesday for a previously planned Joint Counter Terrorism Awareness Workshop, the mayor made it clear there is no known viable threat against Chicago and he said the city is being vigilant.

“I think this is an essential effort to reassure the public first and foremost, we're on the job, doing the work that's necessary,” Mayor Emanuel said.

The annual Joint Counterterrorism Awareness Workshop took place just one day after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and Indiana Governor Mike Pence said Syrian refugees will not be accepted in those states.

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