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St. Petersburg police still finalizing security plans for RNC party at Tropicana Field

ST. PETERSBURG — Fences and barricades could turn the neighborhood around Tropicana Field into a fortress for one day during the Republican National Convention.

The police station, a fire station and a Water Resources Department facility could be encased when 20,000 dignitaries, delegates and journalists invade the Trop for an Aug. 26 cocktail party that kicks off the convention. Roads near the event also will be closed.

The closures won't last long.

"It's a Sunday event," said police Chief Chuck Harmon. "The goal is to minimize the inconvenience for businesses and residents."

He expects the U.S. Secret Service to finalize security plans in the coming weeks. At that time, officers will go door-to-door to notify affected residents and businesses. Pamphlets also could be distributed.

St. Petersburg and Tampa police have been meeting for weeks about the event.

The city, Harmon said, could use the reverse 911 system to notify the public. The system notifies only land lines. If people want to be notified on their cellphones, they must visit the department's website to enter their cell numbers into the city's online system. (Go to www.stpete.org/police/ and click on the "First Call" icon on the right.)

Harmon does not know how many extra officers will be needed for the party, which won't disrupt the city as much as the weeklong convention in Tampa. He said affected residents and businesses will have more than four weeks to plan for any disruptions.

"As soon as we have the information, we will publicize it," Harmon said.

Last month, St. Petersburg officials started drafting regulations for protests outside the event. The regulations should come before the City Council this month. As yet, no group has filed an application permit to protest the event.

St. Petersburg plans to buy a batch of cameras for $270,000 in preparation for events related to the kickoff party. The City Council approved the money last month, despite misgivings from some that the cameras will be installed downtown rather than in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

The federal government will pay the salaries of police officers connected to the event; the money won't come out of the city's general fund.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

St. Petersburg police still finalizing security plans for RNC party at Tropicana Field 07/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 2, 2012 9:53pm]
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