BOSTON – A note to New York: Put up those security fences early. And be ready for lots of suspicious packages.
As Republicans and security officials put the finishing touches on plans for the GOP convention in New York, they're learning from the Democrats' experience in Boston — the first major political convention since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"We will sit down and look at things that went well and things we could have done differently," said Ann Roman, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, which coordinates the extraordinary convention security.
The Democratic event proved safe and peaceful. In fact, law enforcement agencies spent less than $40 million of the $50 million appropriated by Congress for security in Boston, police said Friday.
There were a few hitches, though. The first night, delegates heading into the FleetCenter (search) for the start of the Democratic National Convention (search) had to navigate a crowd of singing protesters, libertarians with bullhorns and demonstrators handing out Christian leaflets.
The unexpected influx, with no fence to separate protesters from delegates, added distraction and delay for officials who had carefully scripted so much of the convention's security.
"That was certainly a mistake, and one we don't plan on making in New York," said Republican convention spokesman Leonardo Alcivar. "It was an unfortunate mistake that was another example of the difficulty that convention organizers have had."
Another lesson came from the dozens of suspicious package calls that kept the bomb squad busy checking what turned out to be innocently misplaced backpacks or bags.
Because of all those false alarms, New York officials will encourage travelers not to bring unnecessary bags, and remind them not to leave anything behind, said Brian Dolan, spokesman for New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority (search).
The Secret Service spent more than a year coordinating security with federal, state and local authorities for the two political conventions, and some of the same Secret Service agents will work both events.
"The plan in New York is well underway, it's on schedule and almost in its final stages," agency spokeswoman Roman said.
Congress also allocated $50 million for security at the Republican convention, which begins Aug. 30.
While the cities are unique, the venues share some challenges. Both the FleetCenter and Madison Square Garden (search) are built on top of major transit centers.
Boston officials shut down their North Station; New York officials have decided not to shut down Penn Station, the country's busiest train station, but they will close two exits.
Security officials aren't the only ones trying to learn from Boston.
Protest groups say they'll alter their plans in New York to keep police guessing. Many protesters were stymied in Boston when authorities erected a "protest pen" outside the FleetCenter, complete with razor wire atop the fence.
"We encourage people not to go into the barricades and not go into protest pens," said Jamie Moran, who helps run the Web site RNCnotwelcome.org, which helps coordinate protest activities for dozens of groups. He said some plan to disrupt Broadway shows while delegates are in town.