Law enforcement urges public to be on alert during July 4 holiday gatherings

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Ahead of the July 4th weekend, federal officials want everyone to pay extra attention to their surroundings.

As large gatherings resume, the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning.

The DHS bulletin obtained by ABC News warned of potential threats to large gatherings, reading in part: "violent extremists might seek to exploit easing COVID-19 restrictions, increased access to mass gatherings, and possible changes in levels of violence during the summer months to conduct attacks against a range of potential targets with little or no warning."

Former Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Homeland Security for Intelligence and Analysis Jack Thomas Tomarchio said a bulletin like this comes only after gathering intel.

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"They don't put those out cavalierly. The DHS puts that out based upon a lot of intelligence that they've received, tips and leads that they've received - a lot of information that they've picked up in social media," said Tomarchio.

Soft targets, including parades, fireworks events and concerts will be heavily guarded, said retired Deputy Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department Joe Sullivan.

"You have to start on the outside the perimeter and your security plans work their way towards the center, with concentric overlapping circles of security," said Sullivan.

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But families Action News spoke with said they would not change their holiday weekend plans.

"Panic is not the right word, it's caution, it's vigilance and just keep your eyes open," said Jack Thomas Tomarchio.

"No, people should not think twice about attending any events on the Fourth of July. But everyone should always maintain situational awareness when in a large crowd," said Sullivan.

There have been no outright threats made specifically against any city or July 4th gathering, officials said.
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